August 28, 2002


ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER KIDNAPPING: Anyone who's been watching the news at all this summer can tell you that it seems like more little girls are getting kidnapped and/or killed than ever before. Seems like every day there's another girl (and the occasional boy) missing somewhere in the country, and each cable news channel spends hours of programming following every single little facet of the case.
Only the truth is, just like last summer's "spate" of shark attacks, there aren't really any more kidnappings happening this year than any other year. What's really going on is that it's a slow news summer, as the War on Terror is no longer producing major news every day, the attack on Iraq is still months away, there's no one story with anywhere near the intrigue of last summer's Chandra Levy case.
So the networks have all made the conscious decision to abandon their long-held policy of only following child kidnapping cases in which the child is white, female, blond, and beautiful, and has decided to begin covering cases involving victims of other demographic backgrounds as well. At the beginning of the summer the shameful coverage of the Elizabeth Smart case was a virtual repeat of that of the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder, in which the media more or less took for granted that the greatest tragedy was that the victim was so cute.
The bad publicity has led the newspeople to adjust their thinking in the matter, and the upshot of that is that awareness is spread about specific missing children, leading to a greater likelihood that they'll be found. Though it's not as though the networks are operating from any humanitarian perspective; in reality, kidnapped children = ratings!

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 28, 2002 11:14 PM
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