According to the National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person Information File, 110,484 active missing persons records were open through Dec. 31, 2006. More than half were juveniles under the age of 18.
The recent disappearance of Jessie Davis in Lake Township and the tragic discovery of her body over the weekend were extensively covered not only by local and area media, but also by national networks.
Davis can be added to a small handful of missing persons cases that attract large media attention. Two others who come immediately to mind are Natalee Ann Holloway, who went missing in Aruba in 2005, and Laci Peterson, who went missing in late 2002 and whose body was found in April 2003. Peterson’s husband was found guilty of the murder and is currently on death row.
Perhaps it is the very novelty of the cases above, including the Davis situation, which attracts the media. Davis’s case had many ingredients that would guarantee high interest. It involved an attractive young woman, pregnant, who defied what many still see as a social taboo by dating outside her race. The suspect in the case was a police officer. The family was extremely receptive to the media. The terrain searched lends itself to aerial shots and panoramic camera angles.
In other words, the visuals and words were easy, and the novelty factor was high, just as they were in the Holloway and Peterson cases.
Otherwise, though, the heartache and wrenching sense of loss experienced by the Davis family are exactly the same as those felt by the families of the other 110,000 or so cases, the ones that receive minimal media attention, either because they are more “common” and therefore less interesting or because those missing are not young women whose looks conform to society’s traditional standards of beauty.
If that is true, what does it say about the media? What does it say about us?