Gabby Petito Has the Nation’s Attention on Her Missing Case, But What About the Others?

Libby Chang

22 year old Gabby Petito has captivated the nation’s attention of her disappearance. Petito went on a road trip with her fiance, Brain Laundrie, and was reported missing by her family when Laundrie returned to North Port, Florida without her. As Petito’s disappearance has the news media covering her, women of color don’t get as much attention and coverage as Petito. 

An estimated “Tens of thousands of Black girls and women go missing every year. Last year, that figure was nearly 100,000. Yet their cases hardly ever grab national headlines.” said Sahron Pruitt-Young, a reporter at NPR. In 2020, about 268,884 girls and women were reported missing.  About 34% were black women, 15% were Black women and girls and 59% of women are missing out of 75% of the overall population of the female population. 

As Gabby Petitos case has captured the whole nation’s attention, women of color go missing every year because of the lack of media attention.

The news media plays such a big role when it comes to cases of crime. “Without media coverage, and the police resources that usually follows, it often falls to families to search for their loved ones.” said Frances Robles, a national and forgein correspondent based in Florida, who files investigated reports and covers breaking news for New York Times. You can really tell how much the media plays such a big role when it comes to breaking news. Without the media, people wouldn’t really know or hear about it at all, let alone hearing cases like these. It’s heartbreaking and disappointing how not enough media coverage or the police force not correporating much, it’s up to family members and friends to help find the people that they love that have gone missing. 

13 year old Victoria Gonzalez missing since September 17, 2021. Photo:

Reactions to the Situation

According to Enrique Gonzalez, a father who’s 13 year old daughter went missing the same week around where Gabby Petito went missing  since September 17, 2021, Authorities Searched Exhaustively for Gabby Petito, What About Others? A New York Times article by Frances Robles, stated that the news station only publicizes what is more important in terms of ratings but then questions, what does it mean by what gets good ratings. So, what gets good ratings? What topics or cases would the news station write about if they were to write it because of getting good ratings? 

Another family member also has a saying about the Petito situation. “Watching the nonstop coverage of Ms.Petito’s disappearance, which included several stories in the New York Times, was hurtful-especially when there was a massive search for a missing white child in Tennessee who vanished at about the same time as her niece.” said Rita Turner, Deesheena Kyles aunt, Authorities Searched Exhaustively for Gabrielle Petito, What About Others? The New York Times article by Frances Robles. Even though there was a whole massive search for the missing child, not having the whole media covering it does make you feel like you are alone in the situation. Imagine going on your tv to watch your local news and see that they are talking about the massive search for a missing person and see the media making so much coverage for it.

But, why aren’t there any cases of these missing girls and women? According to Danielle Slakoff, an assistant professor at California State University in Sacramento, researching criminal justice and the media, News Media Can’t Shake ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome,’ Critics Say New York Time article by Katie Robertson, stated that white women are stereotyped as good people. While women of color are depicted as risk takers or somehow played the role in their own disappearance. Society makes it that way, how white women and women of color are being stereotyped. 

According to Stewart Coles, postdoctoral researcher in the University of  Illinois’s communications department, News Media Can’t Shake ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome,’ Critics Say New York Time Article by Katie Robertson, “People are more interested in missing white women, they are going to give us information on missing white women.” So, because people are more interested in missing white women, it will cause the press to write about it more because people are more interested in it. This can cause issues of racism by just writing more cases like this that involve missing white women, than missing Black women, Latina women, or Indigenous women. 

“And for those over 18, when the families try and file a police report, they are told: “Your loved one is an adult, they can come and go as they please and they don’t have to tell you where they are going,” said Natile Wilson, co-founder of the Black & Missing Foundation, Authorities Searched Exhaustively for Gabrielle Peitio, What About Others? The New York Times article by Frances Robles. But, wouldn’t this cause confusion for people who are filing the report. Missing people can be of any age, and are reported missing because the family is worried that something has happened to them. Just because they are an adult doesn’t mean that they can’t be in trouble also.

Some may say that women of color do receive attention like white women do, like any missing person would. However, that’s not the case. A lot of these people go missing everyday, but there is no media attention on it as much as Petitos’ case. “The intensity of the coverage has mirrored the interest of social media users, discussed and debated on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter pored over the videos and photos posted by Ms.Petito on Youtube and Instagram during her summertime cross-country trip.” said Kate Robertson, a media reporter, who worked previously as an editor and reporter at BloomBerg and News Corporation Australia. If you are active on Tiktok, you may have come across videos of creators making videos about Gabby Petito making their followers aware of what is going on. Creators would also show videos and update their fans about the situation. You can see how Tiktok can really influence young people to know what is going on with the situation with Gabby Petito. 

According to Rivers, who has worked in entertainment journalism for more than a decade, Tens of Thousands Of Black Women Vanish Each Year. This Website Tells Their Stories NPR article by Sahorn Pruitt-Young, explains that “It’s not about asking for more attention or being in “competition” with white people-it’s about other groups getting the same attention as white victims and having their lives honored in the same ways.” In other words, if women of color were to get the same media attention as Gabby Petito were to also, it would have saved so many of those young womens and girls lives. “I just want there to be some interest and energy for every disappeared young women in America-Brown, Black, Native-American, transgender.” said Ana Navarro, a political commentator for CNN and the weekly guest host of ABC’s “The View,” News Media Can’t Shake ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome.’ Critics Say The New York Times article by Katie Robertson. In other words, if other cases like this were to get the same or as much attention as Petitos’ case, we would have saved so many lives and also brought closure to families. Families would be very thankful for that.

How do we solve this problem?

By “staying informed of what is happening, especially in your community, and sharing the information that you do see, retweeting a missing person’s alert or sharing it on Facebook,” said Sahorn. To find the missing girls and women is to stay involved. Use your social media and get family members and people online to let them know about the situation. The more people know about it the more information you will be able to collect and be able to find the missing person.