Missing coverage

The news: Lisa Stebic, 38, of southwest suburban Plainfield went missing on April 30. The FBI, the Plainfield police and dozens of community members participated in attempts to find her. Despite the searches, which extended beyond the local area, Stebic’s whereabouts remained unknown as of late June.

Behind the news: While Stebic’s disappearance generated a lot of media attention, hundreds of people were reported missing in Chicago during that time with little, if any, media coverage.

The Chicago Police Department receives approximately 20,000 reports of missing persons a year–” about 1,600 persons per month or 55 persons per day–”according to Monique Bond, director of news affairs. Yet, media coverage is very limited.

From April 30 to June 6, there were 37 stories on missing persons from the Chicago area in the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, according to an analysis of nexis.com searches conducted by The Chicago Reporter. Stebic was the subject in 18 of them.

Research shows that media outlets disproportionately cover missing person cases involving middle-class white women, like Stebic, according to Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

“There could be a host of reasons why [the media] chooses to cover one story over the other,” said Rosenstiel. “One reason is that journalism is about marketing and appealing to its audience. Programmers are looking to target more affluent people.”

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