Features

Why not Alexis?

Editorial Judgment | WORLD fell into the same pattern it criticized in other media outlets

Issue: "Reaping the whirlwind," July 20, 2002

WORLD reader Bobbi Graffunder of Altoona, Wis., agreed with the basic thrust of our June 29 item criticizing the major media's continuing focus on the abduction case of Utah teen Elizabeth Smart, but not on the case of an African-American 7-year-old who disappeared on her way to school in Milwaukee.

WORLD called attention to an article by Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post: He took to task other media outlets for the coverage disparity but not his own paper, which was at least as guilty.

But Mrs. Graffunder wanted to gently remove the log in WORLD's eye for insufficient attention to the Milwaukee victim: "Does this girl not have a name? Could you not have put in a picture of her?"

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She does (it's Alexis Patterson), we could have (she's pictured here), and WORLD was wrong not to have identified her and used her photo last month.

Mrs. Graffunder concluded: "It would have been a great way of reaching out and separating yourself from the mainstream media in a very honorable and loving way. The very least you could have done is honor the victim by using her name."

Regrettably, as of July 11, Alexis has not been found and authorities still have no good leads. "This is probably one of the tougher cases I've done," said John Robins-Wells, a private investigator who came out of retirement to volunteer in the search for Alexis. "Normally, we have something to work on, but here we don't have anything."

After Alexis's disappearance was reported in the Milwaukee area, about 100 community volunteers fanned out across her neighborhood, searching for clues. But early leads in the volunteer search for Alexis have dried up. Community involvement also has begun to dwindle; only eight full-time volunteers are still working on the case, according to media reports.

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