Social Media wants to know why someone went missing

Social Media wants to know why people go missing

 

As I write on missing people every day, I am pretty conscientious about covering every type of missing story out there.  It has been the for a long time that young attractive blonde-haired women tend to get the most interest from the public.  But the story written by the Washington Post is stating that the missing white women syndrome has gone to the wayside, circa 2015, and that is not the case anymore.

“No missing young woman has captured the nation’s fancy since Holloway…”

Because I am entrenched with posting missing people every day and subsequently am knowledgeable about what peaks everyone’s interest based on my own analytics on my website, I see what readers are reading, I was interested in the Washington Post article and wanted to compare it to my stats.  This is what I found: 

The most commented story in 2014 was not a missing young blonde woman, but a missing young black woman, Latasha Nevitt.  Where usually after the first couple of weeks the interest in a story wanes, Latasha’s story, which was posted in 2012 remained the most commented story month after month, with readers asking if there was any new information.  Sadly, Latasha’s remains were found in a drain pipe in Morgan in 2014 and the story slipped from the most commented story, to off the list of top stories in 2015.  Reader’s seemed to have found a lot of peace when she was found, although they do stop to check every now and then to see if anyone has been arrested for her murder.

The Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos story which I wrote about in 2014, was also another popular story and was the one that passed Latasha’s story as the most popular on the website in 2015.  Williams who is black male and Santos who is Hispanic male went missing 10 years ago under strange circumstances.  Most readers feel as though they have a pretty good idea what happened to them and post their thoughts and continue to check on the story to see if they have been found or if someone has been arrested for their disappearance.   Many more come to read the story after seeing the story broadcasted on the Discovery Channel.

If the Washington Post is right, that the public is no longer interested in the white women syndrome, it seems according to my site they are more interested in reading stories where justice seems to be lacking.  The story popularity seems to have lot to do with readers hoping for justice for the missing person and their family. Once some type of resolution is found, whether the missing person is found or someone is arrested, it is only a few weeks before the story falls from the top spot.

Interestingly, the stories that have the top spot in 2015, after Williams and Santos is Aubrey Moss, which had a lot of comments and speculation surrounding whether she was really a missing person. Moss’ story became popular as people searched for the truth on her disappearance because online bully’s were spreading rumors.

The next popular story is the one about  three teens who disappeared 40 years ago and were found at the bottom of a lake in a sunken car.  Most comments were about the type of car and how they ended up in the water. 

Ben McDaniel’s is another mysterious story that many readers keep coming back to speculating whether Ben died in the Vortex Springs cave while diving or possible took off to avoid debtors. 

And then there is the Missing Texas Forty story about 40 plus people missing from two adjoining counties in Texas.  Many read this story to try and figure out the mystery of why so many people are missing from one area. 

Laura Simonson case was a top story in 2015, because of an anonymous tip I received that turned out to be true.

  Deshon Crawford‘s story is popular I believe, because her mother reached out to me to help her get the word out her daughter was missing.  Subsequently, the public tried to help her and give her advise on where to find her.  It became a community online effort.

   Carrie Cossey‘s story is popular because her name and poster has circulated for two years that she is missing even though she was found in 2013, and they come to the website to get a decisive answer. 

What we see in these top stories is the quest for readers to learn more about a story than what is being released by the media.

The Washington Post also states that TV shows that used to have high ratings because of missing white women syndrome and “bad girls” like Amanda Knox, Jodia Arias and Casey Anthony, are now seeing their ratings decline.  HLN is changing it’s format to repeats of a CNN series and Nancy Grace will be hosting a weekend cooking show.  But, is it the public that has changed and showing no more interest in the shows or has the TV shows gone stale?

Surfing social media comments it was apparent Nancy Grace seemed to have fallen from grace not because of her topic as much as her lack of knowledge on the topic.  By the time she was reporting on the story, social media had already chewed on it for awhile and knew more than Nancy Grace did about it.  It was becoming more and more apparent that Nancy was not digging for a story anymore and was actually uneducated about it.  Her questions to guests showed her lack of knowledge.  So, when your audience knows more about a story than the host the audience stops trusting the source and stops watching. Where several years ago you listened to Nancy for the latest on a case, now, because of social media the public is able to find the information themselves.  The only time Nancy Grace’s show was talked about on social media, is when she was able to bring a family member of a high-profile missing person case on her show to speak with her.  Everyone wanted to watch the mom or dad or boyfriend of the missing person, so they could see with their own eyes if that person was lying.

To sum it up, the media needs to “beat” social media and if the media is not quick and digging on a story they are not going to grab the public’s interest.  The audience usually already knows more than the media does and is looking more for “inside” information, and if the media is not providing it, the audience won’t read their articles.

But, contrary to what I believe, the Washington Post, David Perel says the reason why TV shows are failing is because “there just hasn’t been a story that has all the elements that capture the public’s imagination.”

I disagree.  There has been plenty of stories, but with the audience able to read the information themselves immediately without waiting for it to be read to them, for example at 6 p.m. at night, the media is being left thinking there are no stories that are capturing the public’s attention.  There are plenty of stories, but the public doesn’t want the tip of the iceberg anymore.  They can find that themselves.  They want more.

Until the media is able to get ahead or at least neck-to-neck with social media they will be only a source to those that are not interested in the deep news of a story.  With that, shows that run on Discovery will continue to flourish, as they are able to thoroughly investigate and get the deep news, in some cases even deeper than social media, that today’s public is interested in reading.   The investigative journalism done by the Discovery channel is exemplary and I can always tell when they air a missing person story that I have also done a story on as the “hits” on my website will rise.  I can only assume the readers become interested in the story from the Discovery channel, and want to learn more and search the internet for the information.

Audiences want the why of a story even more than ever now, not just the who, what, when and where.  That is why some stories stay popular years later.  The audience wants to know why.  Why the person went missing, why no one has been caught, why the body has not been found, why the body was found where it was, why they have not come home, why the police have not been able to figure out the mystery of what happened to them.  And they know that in some cases it may take years before the mystery is solved.  But the need to know the why is so compelling they can’t let the story go, until that “why” question has been answered.   Whenever I post an update on a story, that shows someone has been arrested or someone has been found, even if it is 5 years later, the public remembers and thanks for for posting the update.

The public is used to immediate answers, but they also want the answer, even if it is years from now.  At that is why part of what I do is go back to my archives when I have time and find out if someone has been found, no matter what the circumstances because the public wants to know.   From that they can finally learn why that person when missing, something my readers and I both want to know.

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Jerrie Dean, who is retired from Federal Law Enforcement, is the Founder of Missing Persons of America.