TV One


‘Finding Our Missing’ and Disparities in Missing Persons Coverage

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For years, there have been vocal critics of media’s handling of missing persons cases. Particularly when it comes to national news, cases of missing white women tend to get more attention than people of other races. The problem extends beyond not adequately covering minority communities; media coverage and attention can be crucial in solving cases of missing persons.

A new TV One show premiering tonight, “Find Our Missing,” aims to correct the disparity by spreading the word about missing African Americans. The show is part of a collaboration with nonprofit Black and Missing. Some of the first cases featured on the show focus on D.C. women Pamela Butler and Unique Harris. The Washington Posts reports:

… “Find Our Missing’s” main mission isn’t media criticism or a social harangue — especially since the first two cases seen here received a considerable, if belated, amount of local coverage. Rather, in the manner of “America’s Most Wanted,” it encourages viewers to come forward with useful information. Everything you need to know about “Find Our Missing” is in that second word: our. The series keeps its outrage just out of view; its foremost concern is for the missing, as well as their friends and relatives.

Increasing television airtime for these cases could lead to their solving. Another tool that could be useful is social media, but is there a disparity there, too? Twitter, Facebook and other forums are free and open for anyone to use, so it would seem these could be the perfect ways to circumvent any media bias. But take the case of Emily Hershenson, a white D.C. woman and ex-Capitol Hill staffer, who went missing on 2011. Many locals took to Twitter and other networks to spread the word. Tweets called on news organizations to move the story up in prominence, and her name was a trending topic. Some wondered, however, if the case would have received as much attention on Twitter had Hershenson been of a different race and class.