There has been an uproar in the mainstream news about disparities among missing person cases in the mainstream news.
I have been writing about underrepresented and unpopular missing person cases for years. Many stories on which I report have not been in the news until I write an article.
We as people have the freedom to choose where we get our news. So when people say that “the news does not cover [this] case”, this actually translates to, “the news stations that I follow do not cover this case.” That’s not to say all media stations are unfair. Let us popularize the companies that report on missing people as a passion, not with profit as the driving force. ( Mainstream news has one agenda: money / profit. The missing people activists typically have one motive: humanity.) It took me a while to realize that, too. We need to empower ourselves. Did you know that you, too, are the news? I know that sounds crazy. We as people have always been the news. We just are not the mainstream, trending, big platforms. But by sharing and caring, that essentially makes us a small news source.
I put forth immense effort on each case on which I report. I do not discriminate against gender, age, living arrangements, addictions or afflictions, race, and so forth. Of course, since I am only one person, I cannot write about every single case. I often invest weeks or even months on a case if I think I can find the person. I have found many missing people.
The reality is that about 99% of all missing person cases do not get much attention by the big news companies. Regarding the large cases you see on the news, that’s not just the station telling a story. That’s the station sensationalizing a story. There is a big difference. Realistically, most cases will not get as much attention from the big companies. How many big missing person stories do you hear about? One per year? Please don’t compare most missing person stories to those that are sensationalized; almost all of the other stories are unpopular and underrepresented. All endangered missing people deserve media attention, and factors in their level of representation should never include gender, ability or lack of, race, sexual orientation, criminal history, social class / status, employment status, employment choice, physical appearance, and so forth. The age of the missing person is tricky. Of course higher priority is going to go towards a minor who cannot fend for themselves. Many people speculate that there has been discrimination from many angles when it comes to the “news” reporting on missing people. There are truths to this but it is not as cut and dry as many people may think.
I’ve been doing work in this field for many years. I can give you a list of every single missing person from my home state, New Jersey. Regardless of their gender, race, and so forth, you likely wouldn’t have heard of 99% of them. Go take a look… let’s do a test. Visit my map that I’ve made of literally every single reported missing person in NJ (and many unreported). Randomly click on some of the people’s tags on the map. And come back and tell me how many of these people you have heard of. (If you are a missing person advocate, of course the answer is going to be much higher than the general population.) Over 99% of the missing people in NJ alone are unheard of. This is not a matter of discrimination, but a matter of unpopularity across the board regarding most missing people. That’s not to say discrimination can’t or doesn’t happen; of course it does. But it’s not actually as how the mainstream depicts.
You may ask, what can I do to help? You can start by sharing any case. I wouldn’t necessarily share a story just because it involves of a certain stereotype to “make up” for something. Just share anyone equally without giving any thought to factors that could be seen as discriminatory. When I say that I handle underrepresented cases, that means I share ones that simply have not gotten much spotlight in the mainstream media yet. If you want to support the missing person cause, I suggest just sharing what you can, if you choose to do so. If you see a case that is socially stale, share it. Commenting and reacting to stories on social media can help boost the popularity of a case. Take advantage of social media! If there is a case you want to be popular, share it! We are the news. No, it’s not our “job”, but, sadly, the big companies feed off of what they think we want to hear or see. Mutually, people feed off of the big news stations’ stories. The cycle needs to be broken to create change. So, let’s start with us. I already started that, years ago, when I noticed disparities. However, it was not just about discrimination in the news. It was that there is a drastically uneven representation in some cases versus others. Just share any case that you want to share!
The mainstream news actually feeds off of us and what they think we want to see and hear about. Similarly, we feed off the news. How ironic, right? We are both feeding off of each other, creating this cycle that needs to be broken. How can we break this cycle, you may ask?
1- You could share, comment, follow, and like the less popular missing person news sites on social media. If you follow their pages, you will see the news on your news feed. I listed some further down this article.
2- You could also share their stories.
3- If you feel inclined, you could write about the stories in your own words.
4- You could also suggest news stories to the mainstream, if you still choose to get your missing person news from the big platforms.
5- You could donate to missing person companies. This helps them gain the ability to pay more authors and boost their companies. Most actual missing person companies are nothing like the mainstream news.
6- You could actively go look for missing people– whether online or in person. Remember, though, safety comes first. I urge you not to search in person alone.
7- Unfollow any company that you feel only broadcasts the sensationalized stories that they feel the masses will be “entertained” by.
8- If you want to advocate for a certain case, contact authorities working on the case, and nudge them to maybe get the story in the news again. Perhaps ask if there is room for another search.
There are also reasons that some cases do not get much media attention.
1- Many people who go missing do not want to be found. They will, naturally, get less attention.
2- There are some minors that run away that are urged by authorities to not be put on the mainstream news, as it could potentially harm the investigation or even the minor.
3- In some cases, the family of the missing person is deceased or not around and cannot advocate for this missing person. Without the family advocating, their cases will usually remain stagnant, except by less known missing person activism companies. Authorities will naturally look for people who have family members who are looking for them.
4- Some cases involve little investigation, whether due to lack of police force or budget cuts. This can happen in some small towns or even very large cities with high crime rates. Cold case missing people are typically not going to have as much priority as a person who went missing in the last week. In a large, densely-populated city, the proportion of recent emergent crime and cold case missing people is top-heavy. Some towns do not have a missing persons unit, and, if they do, they may not be able to handle all cases at once. Then we need to factor in if a town’s law enforcement agency is understaffed.
5- Some cases get more volunteers to search for the missing person. This can happen in cases that have received vast publicity. The unpopular cases will not usually get many searchers on board.
6- Some cases get more attention if the detective working on the case initiates or partakes in an interview or write-up. But without being able to reach a family member, it’s difficult to create an informed write-up.
There are many other reasons why some cases receive a lot of media attention and why some do not receive much attention. To reiterate, there is no need to compare sensationalized cases to the rest. The sensationalized cases are ones that essentially go viral. The goal is to have every missing person case go somewhat “viral” at some point. But to assume that every mainstream news station will be flooded with all missing persons cases at the same exact time is unrealistic. It is more realistic to have fairness and equality and present each with their ample air time. Because the mainstream news is not always able to reach family members or authorities to report on a case, the case may seem socially stale. Certain news stations– even underground sites– will spend more time on particular cases. This is not done with the intent to create unfairness, but it could boil down to the following reasons: When an author researches a case, he or she will likely want to follow the case. Many mainstream media outlets do the same. They may hope that other stations report on other cases, so there is more diversity and variety. But instead, what happens is, when something is “trending”, the mainstream media will pick it up and circulate it. Therein lies part of the cycle that feeds into some cases being a “trend” or being sensationalized. We cannot force the mainstream news to be ethical; although, we can advocate for morality. What we can do, however, is follow the existing companies that do not necessarily feed off of the mainstream news.
Personally, I have reported on some cases that I invested in more time than others. This can be because perhaps I have found some clues that I felt I could be useful in researching and sharing with authorities and the public. It is difficult to put all of your eggs in one basket.
Some people argue that many cases get so popular because there are “clues”. With publicity, comes clues. And most missing person cases have tons of clues or storylines that go along with it. Some just are not as entertaining for them, and that is something many will not want to admit or acknowledge. We need to stop worrying about the entertainment value and following a case like a TV series and start actually caring about cases that do not entertain you too. These people deserve just as much help. And believe me, there are clues. I can point out hundreds of cases where, with the public’s help, I do feel they could be found.
Keep in mind, as an investigative journalist and forensic [DNA] investigator, I also help search for missing people, so I don’t have the means to write about every missing person at one time. There are thousands of missing people in the USA alone. Many go missing every single day. I write as often as I can. I have taken this duty as my primary endeavor in life. I do not copy from the mainstream. This means that all of my stories come from first hand interviews of the family. I recreate timelines of the missing. Because it is very time-consuming, I have a queue of more than 2,000 cases that I intend to write about. Because I put so much time and effort into each case, I can only write so many per week. I follow each of my cases. It would be impossible for me to write detailed, well thought out stories of all cases. That’s why we also have other companies who do this– and social media!
Some of my associates are Facebook awareness group owners. The impact they have on missing people goes unnoticed by the masses and needs to be acknowledged.
My pages are:
www.facebook.com/UndergroundMysteries (Facebook page)
www.instagram.com/undergroundmysteries (Instagram page)
www.twitter.com/needtoid (Twitter page)
Some other companies and Facebook pages/groups you can follow that share the news of missing people are:
The Vanished & Missing International Group (Group)
Missing Persons of Washington (Group)
Bringing Home Missing People and Those Who Are Unidentified (Group)
Missing People Posters (Group)
WNY (West New York) Missing & Unidentified Persons (Community Page)
California Missing & Wanted Persons (Group)
Idaho Missing Alert (Page)
Nevada Missing & Unsolved (Group)
By joining and following these companies, you will get first-hand, unbiased, non-discriminatory news from those who do not do this for profit but instead do it because it out of care or passion. If you do this, you’ll always be kept in the loop of many missing people. You may not hear of every case or get to learn each case in depth, as that would take a lifetime. But you may perhaps be able to familiarize yourself with a few or more cases and maybe share them. We rely on people like you to share the word.