MADISON, Wisconsin — The last time a 20-year-old college student disappeared in this city, the police led a massive search that cost $100,000 and the national media converged to cover the story.
This time, two police detectives are assigned to the case. The media is paying little attention. And the investigation has yielded few clues three weeks after the student’s disappearance.
Some observers say there is one main reason for the difference. The woman who disappeared two years ago was white and attractive. The student who is missing now is male and foreign.
“He’s not female. He’s not attractive. And that in part is what appears to often come up as a criteria in the way that news media attention gets directed,” said Aly Col, who teaches about ethics and diversity at the Poynter Institute, a journalism training center in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The disappearance of Kenji Ohmi of Kyoto, Japan, who took a semester off to learn English in Madison, is drawing comparisons to the case of Audrey Seiler. She was the University of Wisconsin-Madison student who faked her own abduction two years ago. A four-day manhunt ended with investigators finding Seiler in a marsh.
Like Seiler, Ohmi was last seen on a surveillance camera leaving home. He vanished early Jan. 28 from the apartment he shared with two international students near the Capitol and has not been seen since.
Kind of mean to say that the poor guy isn’t attractive ;P But I think it’s a salient point. How many people go missing in this country? And how many do we hear about?