Executive Director: African-American Women in the Media

Feb 10, 2011

Recently, NPR (National Public Radio) released a story highlighting the disturbing disparity between media coverage of missing African American women and women of other races. In particular, the article points out that while African Americans make up about 13% of the population, our children account for 32 to 42% of all missing children under the age of 18. Yet one would never know how serious this problem is within our community due to the sheer lack of media coverage for missing African American woman and children, especially when compared to stories that received wall- to- wall coverage such as those of Laci Peterson, Natalie Holloway or Jon Benet Ramsey.

The current case of Phylicia Barnes, a young African American teenager who has been missing since late December only recently entered the national circuit of mainstream media reports.  To illustrate the disparity further, the case of murdered Hunter College student Ramona Moore and the subsequent high-profile coverage of the disappearance and murder of Imette St. Guillen have led to scrutiny of the NYPD’s handling of reported disappearances of people of color; including a current lawsuit accusing the NYPD of setting a “double standard” of intently focusing on missing white women  while not devoting the same attention to people of other ethnicities as well as similar questions about the priorities of the mainstream press when reporting these two events.

n both cases, either word of mouth or an instance of witnessing information disseminated by lower profile sources of media (including community-oriented broadcasts, press and blogs) has either led to further awareness or an actual break in the case.

The National Action Network is committed to increasing awareness of this alarming issue within our communities.

Tamika D. Mallory