Drew Curtis of FARK.com, in his book about the news media, outlines some of the largest clichés about stories that get covered by the media. One of those is “missing white chick.” There are thousands of people missing in this world, and most of them are forgotten. If you’re, say, an aboriginal prostitute in B.C., it’ll take dozens of disappearances before anyone in the media takes notice.
But if you’re a cute, white pre-teen from a middle-class family, you’ll get all the coverage you could dream of.
That’s been the case for nine-year-old Cédrika Provencher of Trois-Rivières. She disappeared last week under suspicious circumstances, and the police and her family are using the media to try to get some leads. The media, of course, has eaten it all up. Her name is popping up everywhere, her story has appeared in over a hundred news outlets, and everyone in this province knows who she is.
The inevitable conclusion to this kind of exposure has already reared its ugly head. Police tip lines are being flooded with bogus tips. One woman called from Abitibi to say that she saw a black-and-white dog (the girl was last seen looking for a black-and-white dog, though she doesn’t have any pets). The fact that the police needed to clarify that “we’re searching for the girl, not the dog” says a lot.
And if the media really does care so much about finding missing people, why aren’t they talking about Marie-Pier Cardinal?
Never heard of her? I don’t blame you. She’s a 16-year-old girl who went missing on July 11 in Montreal. There have been no news stories about her, no national campaign to find her, and no distraught grandmothers looking for her.
Why? Is it because she’s too old? Did she not disappear from the right family? Is she not cute enough? Are those looking for her not sending out enough press releases?
Why is it that she and the dozens of other people and kids still missing aren’t having stories written about them?