Missing White Girl Syndrome Ends Here

The media's fixation with pretty white girls in jeopardy is so prevalent there's a name for it. Certain girls of a certain image get disproportionate play. To the best of my ability, that ends now.
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Kelsey Smith. Stepha Henry.

Kelsey Smith vanished from a Target parking lot on June 2nd.

Stepha Henry vanished while on vacation in Florida on May 29th.

Smith was a young, bright recent graduate.

Henry was a young, bright recent graduate.

The media followed Smith's story from nearly the moment it broke until its tragic end.

Henry has gotten barely a mention from any of the major media outlets.

Smith was white.

Henry is black.

We've gotta tread carefully here because race is not a factor in the cases of these women gone missing. But race clearly is a factor to the media and in regard to the news they chose to report.

In the year Laci Peterson was killed by her man, 804 other women were murdered by their spouses. You didn't hear about most of them. Unless you were family, friends, you don't know about their circumstances or the outcome of their cases because few of them were newsworthy. "Newsworthy" being pretty and white. And married a guy who was scum but handsome enough to merit press coverage and a lousy cable movie starring Dean Cain.

Eight hundred four women.

Of any women you remember receiving a substantial amount of press and the primetime minutes, how many were black or Latino or poor or what could be considered unattractive? Not Elizabeth Smart. Not Natalee Holloway. Not Taylor Behl. Not Dru Sjodin. Not even that nutty 'Runaway Bride' who didn't even have the good graces to really be in jeopardy.

The media's fixation with pretty white girls in jeopardy is so prevalent there's a name for it. Missing White Girl Syndrome. Certain girls of a certain image get disproportionate play. Meanwhile, missing and exploited minority children are gone -- forgotten as even Chandra Levy was and JonBenet was, but without the benefit of having their stories first publicly flogged into the earth by every tabloid rag, news mag and cable scream-fest that subscribes to 'if it bleeds, it leads' over the other less cliché and rhythmic philosophy of 'serve the public good.'

I've been very thankful to be co-hosting Morning Joe on MSNBC. Never more so than this morning when everyone involved in the show gathered as much info as we could on Stepha Henry's disappearance and broadcast it.

By the way. If you have any information regarding her whereabouts, please call the following tip line: 305-471-TIPS

I don't know that what we did will make a whit of difference. We can only hope and pray the outcome of her story is less tragic than that of Kelsey Smith. What I do know is that I, that all of us, will continue to follow the Stepha Henry story no matter the resolution. And to the best of our ability the media syndrome that favors the perils of the pretty and the white ends.

Does that mean from this day forward we won't report on young white girls who have vanished?

Absolutely not.

Does that mean we will be able to report on every missing person of color equally and to the satisfaction of their loved ones?

Unfortunately no.

But when we become aware of a missing individual that goes unreported while the media locks its eye on another who represents their version of "newsworthy," will we do all we can to make sure the voices of others who are missing are heard?

As long as I have a platform from which to speak . . .

We will.

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