More than 600,000 people go missing every year; most get no press coverage at all
Coverage of people who go missing varies widely depending on age, race, and gender, and is almost disproportionate to the number of people missing
Proprietary data and analytics tool calculates how much coverage an American is worth if they go missing, based on current reporting in America
Campaign calls on publications to pledge to improve their reporting practices for future underrepresented missing person cases
NEW YORK, Nov. 3, 2022 – Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), the world’s most respected voice on press criticism, has today unveiled “#EveryoneIsPressworthy”, a campaign aimed at addressing bias in media when it comes to covering people who go missing. Working alongside creative agency TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, CJR has developed a unique data tool* allowing people to calculate their press value if they were to go missing, based on current reporting in America.
In an effort to open up a dialogue between media publications and CJR on how journalists cover reports of missing people, www.areyoupressworthy.com allows users to publicly share their press value for the world to see. In most cases, the results show vast disparities on how a person would be covered if they went missing, depending on their race, gender, and where they live.
CJR’s hope is that awareness generated by the campaign will force changes in newsroom practices, and could improve the coverage of other areas, like policing and criminal justice, where coverage inequities remain. “The coverage of missing people is a high-profile example of an even bigger problem,” said Kyle Pope, Editor and Publisher of CJR. “We’re hoping to force a recognition, where systemic coverage gaps exist.”
The number of people aware of a person’s disappearance has a major impact on their chances of being found. Furthermore, the amount of coverage a missing person receives is often influenced by demographics such as race, age, sex, and even geographic location. Commonly known as “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” a person’s physical attributes can determine if they are front-page news or not featured at all.
For example, a white young adult woman who is reported missing in New York could be covered in 67 news stories, according to the CJR data, but a Latino male of the same age would appear in only 17. The gap is even more extreme for diverse members of other age groups, and a middle-aged Black man who goes missing would be expected to receive four or fewer mentions in the press.
For information on currently missing individuals please visit https://namus.nij.ojp.gov/ or reach out to (833) 872-5176 or [email protected] for additional resources. To learn more on how the biases in the media are affecting unfair press coverage visit www.cjr.org.
About Columbia Journalism Review
Columbia Journalism Review is published in print and online by the Columbia Journalism School. CJR is considered the most respected voice in press analysis, shaping the ideas that make media leaders and journalists smarter about their work, and more informed about their industry.
Columbia Journalism Review Data Methodology*
TBWA\Chiat\Day New York and CJR built a model based on a representative sample of 3,630 news stories about missing persons out of 19,561 collected by Meltwater between January to November, 2021. Of this sample, 2,383 stories concerned one or more specific missing individuals, covering 735 unique missing persons who were identified and categorized by age, gender, race / ethnicity, and geography. Missing persons were then cross-referenced with the NamUs database for the same period. Meltwater identified the publisher of the story, the potential reach of that news outlet, and social sharing for each story.
SOURCE Columbia Journalism Review