My Op-Ed / The Journalistic Notion of Objectivity: Missing White Girl Syndrome

police-arrest-black-man

In U.S. news media, it seems that the only coverage of minorities that ranks as highly as missing white girls, is coverage of celebs, and minority male criminals.

The most famous American baby, then, should logically have either:

a)  celeb parents

or

b)  a pretty, blonde mother who went missing, and an African-American, Arab, or Mexican father charged with “gang-related shooting,” “terrorist activity“, or being an “illegal alien.”

Which do you think would win a U.S. news media war?

But I want to address the language used in U.S. news reporting as it relates to our Missing White Girl Syndrome.

Language is highly ideological.

The words journalists choose to use in their reports impart ideology as well.

For example, in reporting each case of missing/murdered victims Polly Klass, Elizabeth Smart, Kristin Smart, Natalee Holloway, JonBenet Ramsey, ad white girl victim infinitum…the phrases “all-American girl” and “girl-next-door” were invariably used by U.S. news media in describing the victims.

elizabeth_smart

 

Both phrases connote that these (mostly) blonde, white, American girls represent us all.

They are ‘one of us.

 

 

Conversely, the omission of these much-bandied phrases in describing missing/murdered girls of minority ethnic origins, exposes an underbelly of our cultural ideology.

Try as I might, I could not find even one report in which a minority girl was described as “all-American,” or “girl-next-door.”

As pointed out by Roland Barthes, French literary philosopher and author of “Mythologies”: “One should not only look at what is present within a system of cultural representations, but also what is absent from it.”

If the notion of objectivity is to be honored, I believe professional journalists professing adherence to ‘objective’ reporting, should take heed of the fact that we live in a rapidly advancing “minority majority” nation, which should foster inclusion – rather than exclusion – in representations in our news media.

world-globe

As detailed by William Frey, demographer and research professor in population studies at the University of Michigan, in an NPR interview:

“…the Census Bureau has projected that by 2042 we’d have a majority minority total population – that is, less than 50 percent whites in the total population.

 But I think that projection probably did not take into account what we’ve seen in the 2010 census, which shows a somewhat more accelerated growth of the minority population…I think we’re going to be a much more mixed-race country by the time we get to 2040.”

In light of our current multi-ethnic demographics, as well as Census Bureau projections for the very near future, why is our media so focused on missing white girls?

natalee_holloway

Certainly, such coverage is not representational of our cultural melting pot.

Without a doubt, such coverage presents a negative image of our value system to the rest of the world.

And, hopefully, no one believes that only white girls go missing or murdered in this country.

But our media cries, “This is what you want, or we wouldn’t do it! Hel-lo..ratings!”

Are they right?

Is this really what we want?

While I do believe that young, white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed missing girls should receive national attention, I also believe that dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed victims are just as worthy of such focus.

The American ideal of equality applies to media coverage, as well – I’m sure of it.

What I’m not sure about is when that will happen.

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Just a few in the latest crop of continually updated Missing White Girls news reports in the last five months alone by mainstream media:

Lauren Spierer

Various news report terms used to describe this missing white girl:

“…petite, blonde beauty…” and “pretty blonde girl

lauren-spierer

Holly Bobo

Various news report terms used to describe this missing white girl:

pretty, blonde, blue-eyed young girl” and “young beauty

holly-boboLauren Astley

Various news report terms used to describe this missing white girl:

beautiful young co-ed” and “all-American girl beauty

lauren-astleyRobyn Gardner

Various news report terms used to describe this missing white girl:

Another blonde, all-American beauty…

robyn-gardner

Et al.

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Thus far, the only two missing minority girls reported on intermittently this year by mainstream news media:

Michele Le

No such flattering physical terminology used in ‘objective’ news reports describing this missing beauty.

News terms used: Asian” and nursing student

michele-lePhylicia Barnes

No such flattering physical terminology used in ‘objective’ news reports to describe this missing beauty.

News terms used: “African-American” and “honor student

phylicia-barnes

What are your thoughts about Missing White Girl Syndrome?

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See the postings on which this op-ed is based:

The Journalistic Notion of Objectivity: Missing White Girl Syndrome

Part 1 Part 2.

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 World News Wednesday

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2 thoughts on “My Op-Ed / The Journalistic Notion of Objectivity: Missing White Girl Syndrome

  1. Pingback: The Journalistic Notion of Objectivity: Missing White Girl Syndrome (Part 2) | Sylver Blaque

  2. Pingback: The Journalistic Notion of Objectivity: Missing White Girl Syndrome (Part 1) | Sylver Blaque

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