Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Philly Rag writer perfects the cranio-anal inversion

I don't read Philadelphia Magazine, and I'm guessing the reason it hasn't held my interest since high school is due to tripe like Noel Weyrich's ill-informed attack on the Richard Cranium's creation of a blogstorm about the coverage of LaToyia Figueroa's disappearance (or rather, the lack of coverage) this Summer.
A lot of women go missing every year under similar circumstances. But LaToyia disappeared during the media frenzy over the mysterious fate of teenaged Aruban vacationer Natalee Holloway. Throwing down the race card, Dick Brain started complaining on his website that LaToyia's disappearance deserved the same attention as Natalee's.

“ Missing Non-White Woman Alert!” Dick Brain blogged. “Someone beep Geraldo! Call in the forensic dive teams! Crate up the Texan cadavar [sic] dogs. … LaToyia Figueroa doesn't fit the CNN or Fox profile of a missing someone that matters.” Other bloggers started piling on with their own race-based reasoning. And sure enough, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and the broadcast networks caved. They started covering LaToyia's case. Then that became the story, as the New York Times , the Washington Post and a bunch of syndicated columnists all wrote up how Philadelphia's bloggers had exposed the TV news obsession with fair-skinned beauties in peril.

Based on the article, it looks as though Weyrich spent an awful lot of time reading right wing blogs attacking liberal bloggers for thinking the disappearance of some ignorant woman of color killed because she let some low-life playa knock her up isn't less media worthy than the disappearance of a drunk, affluent white honor student who made the mistake of getting in a car with some affluent foreign playa wannabe in an island paradise.

Weyrich obviously did little, if any, actual research for the article as the "race card" was an issue in the coverage (and the aforementioned lack thereof) of missing persons for some time. Even NPR got in the action of commenting on the media's fascination with the missing white women and this was well prior to the Richard Cranium induced Figueroa blogstorm.

All one needs to do is take a look at the track record of which stories are deemed compelling enough to make national press: 17-year old Taylor Behl's mother was on the Today show a little over a week after she was reported missing, the police already had multiple people of interest in the case; 17-year old Monica Rose Sharp was reported missing when she took her dog for a walk and the dog returned home without her - her disappearance is not getting national media attention. The search for both women is being conducted by the same police department but Behl is an attractive well traveled 17-year old white college student who was involved with a 38-year old and other shady characters whereas Sharp is a short obese black girl who may have met up with a 57-year old Illinois man she met on the internet. The lack of coverage of Sharp's disappearance is telling considering that Bill O'Reilly frequently rails in support of Jessica's law on Fox and Dan Abrams has resumed his sex offender manhunt on MSNBC.

The excuse the networks provide is that they cover cases of affluent, attractive white women instead of women of color and/or from a lower socio-economic class because the former are more compelling or legally fascinating. Even the coverage of missing white women is oddly skewed by class. MSNBC & FOX continue to cover Natalee Holloway's disapperance, they also covered the disappearance/death of college student & part-time model Julie Popovich, but neither provided national coverage when 12-year Jodie Renee Collie ran away with a convicted sex offender (despite pre-hurricane Katrina requests to FOX that they cover the story).

Those of us who blogged about LaToyia Figeuroa and Tamika Huston did so because we, along with many others, noticed the very obvious difference in media attention when it comes to missing persons and that difference seems to boil down to classism and racism. Anyone who reviewed the mainstream TV coverage in response to the Figueroa blogstorm would have noticed that bulk of the reporting focused on the differential treatment of cases in the press, not on Figueroa's disappearance/murder. Pity Weyrich neglected to actually research the article, if he had he may have discovered that Richard's work getting the story of Figueroa's disappearance and the glaring disparity in media (especially cable news) reporting of missing persons.

I'm late to the game, in addition to Richard's self-defense, there are a bunch of other folks who have something to say about this: Matt, Atrios, Will Bunch, Philly Future, Terrance Ryan, Above Average Jane, Philebrity, Steve Gilliard, and Sisyphus Shrugged.

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