Listener: Race A Factor In Media Coverage Of The Missing

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Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Producer Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," offer important news updates and comb through listener feedback to recent conversations heard on the program as well commentary. This week listeners respond to commentary on race and media coverage of missing women. Also, one listener shares how she is directly affected by the mortgage crisis, following a report that an estimated 2 million people will lose their homes to foreclosure in 2011.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for "Backtalk," where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me, as he is most Fridays. Hi, Lee.

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, on Monday in your commentary, you talked about the case of Phylicia Barnes. Now, the 17-year-old from Baltimore has been missing since the winter holiday break and many wonder why her disappearance has been largely ignored by the mainstream media. You asked whether race plays a role. Here's a clip from your commentary on Monday.

MARTIN: One of the interesting facets of this story is that it won't shock me at all if you've never seen nor heard this girl's name before now. Her story has been covered some in the national media. But it is, by no means, getting the wall-to-wall attention that other stories of missing young girls and women have received. So why isn't her disappearance a bigger deal? She's pretty. That shouldn't matter but apparently, it does when it comes to media coverage of missing persons. And she's African-American, and that shouldn't matter but apparently, it does, too.

HILL: Now, Michel, that commentary drew lots of response, and here's a note we received from Lynn, who posted to our online forum. She writes: I'm white, and I do believe it is a matter of race. Remember the national coverage for Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, Natalee Holloway? These all became household names. Now, did you ever see the national media do a single story about Tamika Huston, Gloria Walker, LaToyia Figueroa, Niqui McCown? These women and girls should be getting the same attention.

MARTIN: Thank you, Lynn. And, of course, we're going to keep track of this case.

Lee, on Tuesday we talked about estimates that nearly 2 million homes will face foreclosure this year. Just after that, the House Oversight Committee formally opened its investigation into the country's foreclosure crisis. We heard from people who were directly affected by the crisis.

This is a post we received from Rebecca. She wrote: As one of the millions of Americans who finds herself in the foreclosure nightmare, I can attest to the confusion and frustration that go along with the process. I got into this situation because I got sick. Then my younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I had to help out. Then I lost my job. There's a date in March when my house will go to the foreclosure sale.

And I want to thank Rebecca for writing, and we certainly will keep you in our thoughts.

Lee, what else?

HILL: Well, Michel, we've been talking about that fiery race to become Chicago's next mayor and particularly, the drama surrounding the candidacy of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Now, he was eligible to run, then declared not eligible by an appeals court - all because of a dispute over his Chicago residency.

Well, yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld his candidacy for the February 22nd vote. And he will be on the ballot in time for early voting, which starts on Monday.

Here's Rahm Emanuel yesterday.

Mr. RAHM EMANUEL (Former White House Chief of Staff): I'm happy that after all this effort, we now have a conclusion so the voters can make the decision of who to be the mayor.

HILL: So there you have it, Michel.

MARTIN: Thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Once again, that's 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TellMeMoreNPR.

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