News anchor suspended over request to cover ‘missing white woman syndrome’

A Bay Area news anchor has been “suspended indefinitely” for requesting to cover “missing white woman syndrome” in relation to the Gabby Petito case, The Mercury News reported.

KTVU news anchor Frank Somerville was removed from air over a newsroom dispute involving coverage of the Petito case. Somerville, the father of a Black adopted daughter, reportedly requested to add a brief tagline drawing attention to the disproportionate media coverage that missing white women tend to receive compared with women of color. 

The Mercury News noted that the term used to describe the media phenomenon, “missing white woman syndrome,” was coined by the late PBS anchor Gwen Ifill.

By the end of 2020, 45 percent of the FBI’s 89,000 active missing person cases were people of color, according to a report from ABC News.

Somerville’s request to add the less than 30-second sidebar was reportedly denied by KTVU’s news director, Amber Eikel, who dubbed the tagline inappropriate. The following day, Somerville was informed of his indefinite suspension.

The three-time Emmy winner was previously suspended from the network following an incident in which he was allegedly slurring his speech on the air during a May 30 newscast.

Petito’s case has sparked nationwide interest in recent weeks after she was reported missing on Sept. 11. Authorities recovered her remains last week and deemed her death a homicide. The FBI has since issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie, Petito’s fiancé, who has been missing for two weeks. 

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