Gabby Petito: News anchor suspended for raising ‘missing white woman syndrome’ during coverage

‘Missing white woman syndrome’ refers to how media tend to focus on disappearances involving young, white females

Bevan Hurley
In New York
Monday 27 September 2021 19:13 BST
Gabby Petito Case Highlights Disparity in Missing Person Coverage
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An Emmy Award-winning news anchor has been suspended indefinitely after telling bosses he wanted to discuss “missing white woman syndrome” during coverage of Gabby Petito.

Frank Somerville, 63, was suspended by KTUV in Oakland after arguing with station news director about adding a “brief tagline” about how missing persons cases involving white women tend to attract far greater coverage than those of indigenous and Black people.

According to the Mercury News, Mr Somerville wanted to bring attention to the vast amount of coverage Ms Petito’s disappearance and death has gained.

He was reportedly told by his boss Amber Eikel that it would be inappropriate, and the pair became involved in a disagreement that led to Mr Somerville’s suspension.

Mr Somerville had only recently returned to the air from a previous suspension for slurring his words during a live broadcast on 30 May.

The Independent did not immediately hear back from KTUV after approaching them for comment on Monday.

Last week, television host Joy Reid also questioned the overwhelming interest in Ms Petito’s disappearance, and questioned lack of attention in cases involving people of colour.

“The way this story captivated the nation has many wondering, why not the same media attention when people of colour go missing?” the MSNBC anchor asked.

“Well, the answer actually has a name: missing white woman syndrome - the term coined by the late and great Gwen Ifill to describe the media and public fascination with missing white women like Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway, while ignoring cases involving people of colour,” the host of ReidOut said.

Mr Somerville, whose daughter is Black, has worked at the Fox-affiliated KTUV since 1992.

When reached for comment, he told the Daily Mail reports of the suspension were “generally correct”.

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