Phylicia Barnes’ disappearance garners no media attention, I think I know why

Phylicia Barnes
Phylicia Barnes

I very rarely blog about missing person cases. It’s not that I don’t care about the people that are missing however a lot of missing person stories seem to bring out the crazies who think they’re some kind of super sleuth. However, there is a case that has caught my attention.

Phylicia Barnes is from Monroe, NC which is one town over from me. She is an honor student and a track star at Union Academy which is a charter school. She is on track to graduate early and plans on attending Towson University in Maryland.

On December 28th she was in Baltimore visiting her sister when she disappeared. Due to the lack of evidence and the fact that Phylicia’s ATM card and cell phone have not been used police believe she has been abducted. Baltimore investigators are also afraid that she has been taken far from the Baltimore area. 100 detectives have been assigned to her disappearance however police in Baltimore have been frustrated that they have gotten very little media attention outside of North Carolina and Baltimore.

One paragraph from the Baltimore Sun article really got my attention.

Late Thursday afternoon, after The Baltimore Sun contacted several television networks seeking comment, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said he received calls from producers, and he and the commander of the homicide unit were booked on CNN’s “Nancy Grace,” CBS’ “The Early Show” and NBC’s “Today.” However, the “Nancy Grace” show fell through; Guglielmi said the show’s producers never called him back.

Emphasis mine.

I hate to use Phylicia’s disappearance for my personal soapbox but I think I figured out why the Nancy Grace Show passed on this story and it’s not as obvious as you may think.

A lot of people would be quick to point out that Phylicia Barnes is black and that’s why Nancy Grace didn’t do the story. I think that’s part of it but I also think there is more to it than that.

My theory is that there is a formula to determine if a missing person story gets national media attention and I think the qualifying factors are…

  1. Gender
  2. Race
  3. Location
  4. Social Status
  5. The Hook
Let’s break down a couple of infamous ‘Nancy Grace’ type stories that have garnered national media attention.
First off let’s apply the theory to the Natalee Holloway case.
  1. Gender: Female (+)
  2. Race: White (+)
  3. Location: Aruba (+)
  4. Social Status: Well off (+)
  5. The Hook: Unexplained disappearance, the person of interest not arrested, the body never found (+)
Let’s try another one. Let’s use the Casey Anthony story specifically the victim in the case, Caylee Anthony.
  1. Gender: Female (+)
  2. Race: White (+)
  3. Location: Florida (X)
  4. Social Status: Moderate (-)
  5. The Hook: A week before Caylee was reported missing, outrageous claims made by family (+)
Now I think you can ignore one or 2 factors of the theory if some of the others are too dominant. In the Casey Anthony case, I think the hook overrides the location and social status.
Now let’s apply the theory to a story that I know for a fact that Nancy Grace passed on and that would the story of missing child Giovanni Gonzalez which bears a lot of similarities to the Casey Anthony story…
  1. Gender: Male (X)
  2. Race: Hispanic (X)
  3. Location: Near Boston (-)
  4. Social Status: Struggling (X)
  5. The Hook: Father is in jail refusing to tell where his son is. (+)
As the saying goes three strikes and you’re out.
Now let’s apply the theory to the disappearance of Phylicia Barnes.
  1. Gender: Female (+)
  2. Race: Black (X)
  3. Location: Baltimore/NC (X)
  4. Social Status: Unknown but let’s assume the media thinks the family is poor (X)
  5. The Hook: None (X)
Shows like Nancy Grace don’t do what they do to help people. They only do it for the ratings which equals advertiser dollars and I think these are the factors that determine the best stories for them to run in order to make the most money.
Unfortunately, if there’s nothing in it for the networks then they’re not interested.

Anyone with information on the disappearance of 16-year-old Phylicia Simone Barnes is urged to call Baltimore police at 1-855-223-0033. The toll-free number is staffed 24 hours a day. Phylicia is about 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs about 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a blue peacoat with a hood, a turquoise thermal shirt, blue jeans and white slipper-boots and was carrying a caramel-colored purse.

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