You’ve likely seen the famous Spiderman meme with two spidey guys pointing at each other. People often use the image to invoke the idea of the same person offering up views that conflict with each other.
That’s the image I see when the press goes around writing stories where they complain about the disparate coverage given to a particular story, particularly in the case of a missing person. Authorities found the body of Gabby Petito in Wyoming, and officials have ruled her death a homicide. Petito’s story gained national attention while she was officially missing. Now that she’s dead, it is apparently the perfect opportunity for the press to lament the lack of coverage given to missing people (mainly women) of color.
There are numerous examples. The Daily Beast published a story that said, “In the same area that Gabby Petito disappeared, 710 indigenous people— mostly girls—disappeared between the years of 2011 and 2020, but their stories didn’t lead news cycles.”
Eugene Scott, a national political reporter with the Washington Post, tweeted the Daily Beast story.
Charles Blow of the New York Times wrote a column about it.
Jeff Greenfield, whose Twitter bio says, “30 Years political analyst, ABC, CNN, CBS, PBS. Author of 14 books. POLITICO Mag columnist,” tweeted:
CNN devotes 15 minutes to the Gabby Petito story. (I'm betting broadcast nets were heavy into this as well). If you think it's unfair to suggest a racial aspect to this, show me the story of a missing/ murdered Black woman that got anything like this play.
Joy Reid of MSNBC devoted an entire segment of her show to it.
NPR published the following story and tweet:
The media's focus on the Gabby Petito case has been frustrating for some people — who point out that the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women doesn't get nearly the same media attention.
Here is the top story on CNN’s website this morning:
Note the players.
The Daily Beast. The Washington Post. The New York Times. MSNBC. CNN. NPR.
They are all significant news outlets in terms of reach and budget.
In addressing the central claim, I would agree the coverage is disparate. I won’t speak to motives, but Gwen Ifill, who died in 2016, gets credit for coining the phrase, “missing white woman syndrome.” You likely know the name, Gabby Petito. You likely do not know the name Carla Yellowbird.
Carla Yellowbird was the focus of a recent episode of Dateline. She went missing from the North Dakota Spirit Lake Indian Reservation in 2016, and the case received little media attention. It was only due to the tenacity of Carla’s aunt, Lissa Yellowbird-Chase, that two suspects were eventually identified, arrested, charged, and convicted of Carla’s death.
I don’t recall Charles Blow writing about it. NPR interviewed Sierra Crane Murdoch, the author of a book about the case, but didn’t cover the story. There were no results for CNN. The only mention on MSNBC is when Joy Reid mentioned the Dateline episode.
Are you sensing a pattern here?
The Daily Beast will write a story every time Jacob Wohl farts in a specific direction or decides to have a press conference with Jack Burkman where they offer up tall tales that have all the value of a fresh pigeon turd.
Want to know what Tucker Carlson is saying on his Fox News Show? Joy Reid will tell you. Scroll through Charles Blow’s columns, and you’ll see plenty of Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump TrumpTrump Trump Trump Trump, but not anything about the plight of a minority family dealing with a loved one that went missing.
NPR has a slate of approximately 24 podcasts with a range of subjects such as politics, the economy, pop culture, music, and more. Yet, they have nothing devoted to missing indigenous women though they can certainly make the space for it.
CNN will rush to cover any time another morsel of tomfoolery escapes Marjorie Taylor Greene’s gullet and is happy to spend a lot of time reporting on how Joe Biden and Ron DeSantis are pissing on each other’s legs.
What we have before us is a conglomerate of reporters, writers, and outlets that have the time and budget to devote to all missing women. For example, the Washington Post could task 2-3 reporters with spending six months visiting reservations around the country and hearing the stories of women who’ve gone missing.
The overall lesson is there’s plenty of bandwidth for these stories to get told. Of course, there’s no guarantee they will go viral, but if the coverage is critical, why not do it, and when will those who have the influence within those organizations speak up?
It’s unlikely anything will change. Instead, those complaining will think, “Well, we did what we could. We raised awareness of the problem.” The internal scolding will end the moment they see something bright and shiny.
There’s a scene in the fun movie, Throw Momma From The Train where Larry (Billy Crystal) picks up Owen (Danny DeVito) from the airport after the latter claims to have killed Larry’s ex-wife in a Strangers On A Train type deal. As Owen is waxing poetic about the formation of Hawaii due to volcanoes, Larry explodes:
“You killed somebody! You're a murderer! You took a life!”
Owen responds, “You're right. I'm no good. How could I do that? I'm a sick, sick per... Cows!”
When Owen sees a billboard with cows on it, he immediately forgets what a horrible person he is.
The press will do the same thing. I hope I am wrong. But we’ve seen this rodeo before.