The Search for Answers: Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie Part III

Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 4:04 PM EST
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Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a four-part series on the Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie case. You can view Part I here and Part II here.

NORTH PORT Fla. (WWSB) - As national media flocked to the Suncoast to cover the Gabby Petito/Brian Laundrie case, many people noted that Petito was getting more coverage than other missing women.

ABC7′s Daniel Hurtado sat down with local experts, law enforcement, and a former FBI agent to talk about why some cases get more national attention than others.

The case of Gabrielle Petito caused the media to descend to North Port in hopes of getting answers from the Laundrie family. Video of the beautiful 22-year-old documenting her cross-country trip captivated the world.

“First couple of days I talked to a few local reporters and before you knew it the world had descended on North Port,” North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor remembered.

The media was demanding answers, but other cases unfolding at the same time did not seem to get the same attention.

Bryanna Fox, a former FBI agent turned criminology professor at the University of South Florida, explained why.

“She was a beautiful young white girl, so she really fit the profile of the Missing White Woman Syndrome, but on top of that she had a very substantial Instagram following so she was already beloved by the social media community,” Fox explained.

In a 2020 study conducted by the University of Louisiana, researchers indicated that missing white victims, in general, receive media coverage more than minority victims.

Journalists coined the term “Missing White Woman Syndrome.”

Fox says that media and investigators are hoping to learn from the inequality. “How can we bottle it up and use that knowledge for other cases that don’t necessarily get the same amount of coverage or attention?” Fox questioned.

Andrew Selepak teaches media ethics at the University of Florida and he notes that the same research from the University of Louisiana shows that Missing White Woman Syndrome is a reflection of long-standing, racially-biased perceptions of victims.

During a news conference, Gabrielle’s father Brian implored the media to give the same attention to all missing person cases.

After her death was confirmed, the Petito family created a foundation in her memory that will raise funds to help in missing person cases by providing resources to family and agencies.

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