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Jun. 7 2010 - 4:45 pm | 7,081 views | 0 recommendations | 17 comments

Two missing boys, two different races, two types of coverage

Anthony Thomas, photo via DC Police

I first heard rumblings about a missing 11-year-old boy in Washington D.C. when I checked my Twitter feed first thing this morning. After a bit of searching, I found the Washington Post headline buried toward the bottom of the page – despite a mention in the story that Anthony Thomas “is now considered a critical missing person” – a frightening admission by the police that the boy might be in terrible danger.

I was surprised then – though I now realize I shouldn’t have been – to see a story about a missing young boy other than Anthony Thomas plastered across the top slot on People magazine’s website. There, the mag sounds the alarm for 7-year-old Kyron Horman, who never made it back to his Portland, Ore., home after attending his elementary school class. Certainly no publication has the resources or the space to cover each youngster who goes missing – but given their similar ages, the times at which they disappeared, and the relative mystery surrounding both – wouldn’t it make sense for People to mention both boys?

Kyron Horman, photo via FBI

Since they didn’t, it’s legitimate to assume that race might have played a role in the coverage. People is notorious for covering the cases of missing white women – Natalee Holloway, Caylee Anthony, Madeleine McCann, Laci Peterson, etc. – in exhausting and excruciating detail, while women with similar stories like Mitrice Richardson get far less coverage (Richardson made a People magazine cover, but shared it with a group of other missing persons, while white women like Holloway received their own covers – sometimes more than once).

I certainly hope that both Anthony Thomas and Kyron Horman both make it home safely and securely, and as soon as humanly possible. But even if they do, it’s possible that Thomas might already be the victim of a documented media bias that heaps concern on white people in peril, and ignores or downplays stories involving people of color who also go missing.


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  1. collapse expand

    Funny you mention this. I have been so frustrated with how UNDERrepresented Kyron was in the news until this morning.

    He has been missing since Friday and there was nothing posted on the Internet or in local news until after 10 on Friday. I searched every couple hours over the weekend and was horrified at how little coverage this was getting. It didn’t make national coverage until Sunday– more than 48 hours after his disappearance. He could be anywhere.

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    I would be loathe to include People magazine in a discussion of journalistic duty. Local news media are a different story.

    I see coverage of Kyron’s investigation and wonder if Anthony’s is comparable…or if DC’s law enforcement has the same resources as Portland.

    I don’t know about 7 and 11, but I know that at some point, more attention will be paid to the younger children in any given story, which seems fair. There is a world of difference between a missing 24-year-old (Mitrice) and a 7-year-old that has nothing to do with race.

    My hometown recently had three adult males missing, ages 46 to 59, and know their cases will not get the same attention as Kyron’s…or Anthony’s. I have no problem with that.

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    I think you missed the point. No doubt missing white kids (or white spouses) get better coverage than missing black ones, but you are comparing apples and oranges. Kyron did not go missing on his way home from school…he went missing between the science fair in an auditorium and his homeroom class. He was placed in the school by his mother, and did not make it to the next room he was to report to within the same building. That’s a little different that going missing on a busy street in one of the most dangerous cities in the country, on a Saturday. There’s plenty of racism in the media, but this aint it.

  4. collapse expand

    There have been a number of stories written about the disparity in coverage of missing black children and missing white children. When my son was small and we used to warn him about bad people he said he didn’t have to worry because nobody kidnapped black children. Of course, people do, but because of the coverage all he saw in the news was missing white children. It’s not that those children don’t deserve media coverage, it’s just that they are not the ONLY ones who deserve media coverage. I just googled Anthony’s name because I had posted a news item about it on Facebook and was following up to see if coverage had been expanded. I appreciate your brining this case the forefront.

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    Really?? You don’t think the younger boy is getting more media attention becuase he disappeared from school? The one place where parents think their kids are safe? And 7 and 11 is not that close in age. I hope both of these children are found safe and healthy.

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    The thing is Kyron is now receiving national media attention while the other case is not. And as I said before when you have a black child who thinks black children don’t get kidnapped because he never sees coverage of black children who are missing, it’s a sad commentary. He doesn’t have an agenda, he just knows what he sees. Can anyone name a famous case of a missing black child. We can rattle off names of missing white children, especially young girls, but can anyone really name a missing black child who received sustained national media coverage.

    I am happy that Kyron’s case is receiving attention and yes, it should be done as soon as he was reported missing. I can’t imagine what his parents are going through and I am praying for is safe return. The point I am making and will continue to make is that ALL children are precious and the media should not discriminate against who gets coverage based on race.

  7. collapse expand

    I don’t think that anyone who took the time to read up on the “White Woman Syndrome” would disagree that there is a problem with our media. However, in order for that to get proper attention, better examples should be drawn. The ones given here are woefully inadequate and are not very similar in comparison. Poor choices by the author. Further, if they cannot draw better distinction between the examples cited and those compared to, this becomes irresponsible.

  8. collapse expand

    I think there is a vast difference between a 7 year old boy who disappeared during school hours from campus, and an 11 year old boy walking home and not getting to his destination.

    The author of this story needs to get the story straight when reporting. Kyron was not just a boy who didn’t make it home after class was out. He was left on school grounds-seen walking down the hallway (inside a building, not outside) and was never seen again.

    I do not think race plays a role here. Age, circumstance of disappearance is a more accurate role. Yes, race is a difficult issue, but maybe if we stopped looking for issues of race everywhere and stopped screaming RACE! then maybe our country would start actually be a little more accepting.

  9. collapse expand

    To Momof7,
    I’d ask you this question and please take a minute to ponder before you answer.
    If your child were missing after being on his way to school, would you accept the argument that he doesn’t deserve more media coverage because he didn’t disappear from the school building? Would it be okay for there to be less media coverage about your missing child because he was black?

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  11. collapse expand

    For more than 40 years–the entire time I’ve worked as a journalist–I’ve railed against the racial disparities in apparent missing persons cases…not to mention almost every other story related to crime.

    I cannot even watch the morning news/talks shows on the national networks any longer. Truth is, if I hadn’t stopped watching and railing against the shows’ “news” people, my wife would have kicked me out of the television watching area. She has become fatigued by my railing, and wants to watch the morning programs.

    Shame on the decision makers at every so-called news organization who allow the racial disparities to continue. I do my best as a lone journalist to even out the coverage, but my stories lack the reach to make a significant difference.

    • collapse expand

      As a journalist and a mother, I greatly appreciate everything you have done to try to even things out. I have railed also. Once I even sent a tweet to Nancy Grace, the queen of missing and exploited children media, to do something on a little boy missing in New York. I sent her the information I’d gleaned about it. She asked for more details. I provided what I could find. I thought doesn’t she have a staff who could dig up this stuff. But I obliged because I wanted to try to get some national coverage. Never saw anything on her show about it. As I’ve said in previous post, I challenge anyone to name any black, Latino child whose name has been seared into the minds of the collective American conscience because of repeated national news coverage.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  12. collapse expand

    Anthony Thomas has been found


  13. collapse expand

    i do agree with what you say

    i give People mag a lot of credit for getting involved but they could do better

    but i think part of it also has to do with the effort and support behind the search for Kyron Horman – people in Portland and the pacific NW tend to be more community oriented and active than those in DC with stronger political leaders

    last i looked DC was desperately in need of a new mayor – one with some ethics

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    I'm a Los Angeles-based writer and editor focusing on pop and politics, race and culture, and where Gen-Yers fit into it all. My writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, WashingtonPost.com, the San Francisco Chronicle and People magazine. Among other things, I'm Oregon-born, hip-hop-addicted, and weirdly optimistic that the journalism business will stay alive.

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