This is something that few people really like to talk about, but it does come up sometimes. Why do we only get national coverage when it's a stereotypically pretty white woman that goes missing? Why don't we see national coverage over a case like this?
It's rare to see a police official speak out in such a frank manner:
As far as the interest by the national media in the story, I think race probably had an impact... ...It's a small college in the South. It's the daughter of simple people who maybe are not important outside of their circle, and maybe we don't attach the same importance to them that we do for other people...
I think that there are a number of factors that make the media latch onto one case over another. If there are celebs or politicians involved in a case, the media is all over it, for example. The biggest factors certainly seem to be race, youthfulness, and prettiness.
Consider the major cases that come to mind when you think of "missing woman": JonBenet Ramsey. Chandra Levy. Laci Peterson. Jennifer Willbanks. Natalee Holloway. Jessica Lynch.
The problem with cases like these isn't that they receive media attention- it's that the media becomes so absorbed in those cases that it fails to cover cases of other missing persons. When a person goes missing or a murder is unsolved, time is of vital importance, and the police need all the leads that they can get in order to try to solve the case. If it's a kidnapping, the best chance for getting the person back safely passes quickly, and the media can play a huge role in helping get police leads. When the media cover a story about a missing person, people might have seen the missing person can give the police tips and can help find that person. When the media fail to cover a missing person case in favor of running more and more coverage about the missing white woman, they're limiting the effectiveness of the search.
And to say it explicitly: I don't have a problem with the news covering these cases- I don't think that they need to stop covering cases- but I think that they should be doing a better job covering a variety of missing persons or unsolved murder cases. Not just the cases where they think that the victim fits a certain demographic.