White News Anchor Suspended After Planning To Address Racial Disparity In Missing Persons Coverage

Frank Somerville, a white news anchor for KTVU in San Francisco, has been removed from his post after he planned to go on live television and question the disproportionate media coverage of Gabby Petito who was found dead last week after she went missing, sources told Mercury News. The anchor wanted to add a brief tagline at the end of his news report to highlight how the media tends to focus on missing white women such as Petito while neglecting other groups. 

KTVU executives saw the tagline as inappropriate and indefinitely suspended the 63-year-old who is the adoptive father of a Black girl, SF Gate reported. The latest incident at the news station comes after Somerville took an indefinite leave of absence to focus on his health earlier this year and returned to work nine weeks later. 

In the wake of Petito’s missing persons case, many other advocates have been noting the media’s lack of attention to missing people who are not white. As Blavity previously reported, MSNBC host Joy Reid borrowed a line from the late journalist Gwen Ifill and referred to the disproportionate coverage as “missing white woman syndrome.”

In Wyoming, where Petito’s remains were found, at least 710 Indigenous women have gone missing between 2011 and 2020, according to a statewide report from the University of Wyoming. 

While much of the media’s coverage has been focused on Petito in recent days, advocates have brought attention to several underreported cases of missing people. One of the missing persons cases was Jelani Day, a 25-year-old Black man who was found dead in the Illinois River earlier in September after he was missing for nearly a month, as Blavity previously reported

According to ABC News, the FBI’s National Crime Information Center uncovered more than 89,000 active missing person cases last year and concluded that 45% of those were people of color. Another study from the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology in 2016 found that about one-fifth of missing person cases involving minorities are covered by the news. 

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