Equal coverage needed for all missing


Hannah Graham’s disappearance has opened old wounds. Cassandra Morton disappeared in 2009 but her name didn’t make national headlines the same way Graham’s has.

Just six days after Morton went missing, Morgan Harrington disappeared. Harrington received more news coverage than Morton.

Morton’s stepfather says it’s because Harrington’s family was able to offer a reward for their daughter and because Morton didn’t fit the media’s preferred image.

According to The Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson:

“A damsel must be white. This requirement is nonnegotiable. It helps if her frame is of dimensions that breathless cable television reporters can credibly describe as ‘petite,’ and it also helps if she’s the kind of woman who wouldn’t really mind being called ‘petite,’ a woman with a good deal of princess in her personality. She must be attractive — also nonnegotiable. Her economic status should be middle class or higher…”

Morton came from Tinbridge Hill, a historically black neighborhood. She experimented with drugs and moved around a lot.

Harrington’s parents made television appearances and a website was made to find their daughter. Morton did not receive such attention. Without speaking with both Morton’s and Harrington’s parents, I cannot know the degree to which each family sought coverage and the degree to which the media approached each family to be able to pinpoint the cause of the difference in coverage between the two girls’ disappearances.

In any case, this should serve as a reminder for journalists that content should be dictated by neither aesthetics nor money. We need to strive for fair, unbiased coverage that represents the diversity of our population.