Jahessye Shockley, 5, walked out of her Arizona home 11 days ago and hasn't been seen since. Her grandmother Shirley Johnson says the case hasn't been made a media or police priority because Jahessye is black and wants to see more coverage. Missing baby Lisa Irwin of Kansas City, Mo., has dominated national media missing persons coverage for the past weeks since she was reported missing on Oct. 4.
Update on Jahessye Shockley investigation
Police in Glendale, Ariz., deny race is an issue in the search for Jahessye. A police spokesperson said of the case, " It's the department's No. 1 priority ." Police consider it likely that Jahessye was kidnapped. Almost immediately after Jahessye's disappearance was reported, a witness claimed to have seen a child matching the little girl's description pulled into a Malibu by a black female. Police also say that if Jahessye had wandered off and had an accident, she presumably would have been found by now.
Disparate media coverage "all about ad dollars"
While there are no statistics to prove disparate media coverage of missing black and white children, observers have raised this criticism before. Judy Lubin noted in her blog that an NPR story in January pointed out that black children constitute 34 percent to 42 percent of the missing child total. Media attention is disproportionately focused on girls -- but not all girls; it's pretty girls, and predominately white pretty girls, who get the coverage.
The Crime Report, published by a former prosecutor, describes a Missing White Woman Syndrome in which the most media coverage of missing persons of all ages is devoted to white females. Males and blacks do not get anywhere near the same attention. Why? An anonymous cable news employee told the Washington Monthly it's because missing white females draw viewers. It's "all about ad dollars," he said.
Missing black boys
While Lisa Irwin's name is a household word due to the media coverage of her disappearance, Jahessye Shockley's is less well known. But Jahessye has gotten more media coverage than some missing black children. Here are some missing black boys whose names may not ring a bell but who nevertheless are just as missing and just as deserving of being found as those who get the media attention:
* Robert T. Ragland, 8, missing since Aug. 20 in what is believed to be a nonfamily abduction, from Hesperia, Calif. Search his name online and what pops up are missing persons sites, not media reports.
* Marlon Davin Crawford, 14, has been missing from Miami since Aug. 4.
* Keon C. Anderson, 13, has been missing from Richmond City, Va., since Sept. 21.
* Tramaz Monte Tynes, 10, has been missing from Portsmouth, Va., since Oct. 17.
Except for baby Joshua, these black boys have not been the subject of any significant national media attention. You can read more about them and other missing children who have not received the media spotlight at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website.