If you went missing, how much press would you get in today's media landscape? The Columbia Journalism Review unveiled a tool on Thursday that calculates the number of stories your disappearance would net, based on demographics, per the AP.
- You can calculate your own "press value" here.
It sounds morbid, but the exercise is designed to call attention to "missing white woman syndrome," the tendency of news organizations to pay relatively little attention to missing people who don't fit that category. The late journalist Gwen Ifill is credited with coining the term two decades ago. Yet in the interim, there's been little indication that coverage decisions have evolved. Researchers at CJR and the ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day/New York examined 3,600 stories about missing people done last year by US-based news organizations, cross-referencing them with age, gender, and race details from a database maintained by the Department of Justice.
The starkly named site AreYouPressworthy.com asks users to enter their age, gender, location, and ethnicity. As the site goes through each step, the user is informed that the disappearance of older people and men are less likely to make the news. White people are the most likely to get covered, while Black and Hispanic people have the lowest chance of coverage. “We have to place a spotlight on the way that the media functions and the way in which we devalue—inadvertently or not—the lives of people that we're supposed to cover,” says Jelani Cobb, dean of the Columbia Journalism School.
According to the calculator, the disappearance of a 22-year-old white woman in New York would generate 67 stories. If she were three years older, that number would drop to 19. And a missing 25-year-old Black woman from New York would get eight. A 50-year-old Black man in the same city would net six. The results page also identifies the outlets most and least likely to cover the user's hypothetical disappearance and calculates what percentage of Americans would hear about you. More than 92% of Americans would have heard about a 22-year-old missing white woman from Nevada, the tool says.
(Read more missing persons