Media messages surrounding missing women and girls: The "missing white woman syndrome" and other factors that influence newsworthiness

Danielle C. Slakoff, Henry F. Fradella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

An analysis of news articles reveals a consistent trend: Missing White women and children are more likely to garner media attention than missing minority women. The glorification of missing White women and children has been dubbed the "Missing White Woman Syndrome. "Despite the popularity of this concept, few scholars have examined the differential representation given to missing White and minority women and girls in the news media. This content analysis explores whether the "Missing White Woman Syndrome" exists in print media and examines which other factors-including age, job status, and motherhood status-influence story narratives. While missing White women and children were overrepresented in the news and more likely to receive repeated coverage, the researchers found the media used a Black missing woman or girl's legitimate job status to humanize her. Indeed, stories about missing women and children were significantly impacted by the missing person's age and job status, and the media described some missing women and girls as innocent while others were described in a salacious manner. The implications of the Missing White Woman Syndrome's existence for theory and professional practice in journalism and criminal justice, as well as those for justice policy, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-102
Number of pages23
JournalCriminology, Criminal Justice, Law and Society
Volume20
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Black feminist theory
  • Media issues
  • Missing persons
  • Missing white woman syndrome
  • Race in mass media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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