Monday, June 27, 2005

The CNN Effect

You've undoubtedly heard some variant of the joke about how CNN and the mainstream media always obsess when an attractive white girl or woman disappears. Her plight is covered day in and day out. If you're black, Asian or Hispanic, or a man, you're out of luck.

Well, it had to happen: "Family Altered Photo of Missing Child to Get More Help."
"At first I thought the kidnapper had dyed her hair, you know, to make her less easy to recognize," said Maria Baker, one of the volunteers who spent 50 hours last week searching. "Then I thought, wow, that week in the wilderness sure was rough on her. Then I saw a closeup, and I thought, man, did a bear get her too?"

It turns out that Francine's family had doctored the photo released to police and the media in order to make her "more appealing" and spur a wider rescue effort. In the picture, she is a perky, cute blonde girl somewhat resembling Lindsay Lohan.

"In actuality, Francine is neither perky nor blonde," said a grim-faced Perry. "In fact, her picture is mainly a testament to her father's skills with Photoshop."

...the Keyes family has defended their actions, arguing that there are only five or six slots for widespread searches in a given TV season, and if they didn't give their daughter "every advantage" she wouldn't have made the cut.

"This season we've already had Natalie Holloway and Brennan Hawkins, two really high-profile cases with very appealing protagonists," said Alan Keyes, Francine's father. "Heck, Francine used to scare the cat whenever she smiled. What were we supposed to do?"

The state of Texas has grudgingly concluded that it cannot charge the Keyes family for the search and rescue effort, since Francine's disappearance was the result of an actual crime (unlike recent runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks). However, CNN is considering filing a civil suit.

"Our viewership drops fifteen percent every time we show the real picture of this girl," said Umbridge. "I'm sorry, but CNN has journalistic standards, you know. At least put a wig on the poor girl."
You were buying this, weren't you? Doesn't it sound entirely plausible? What does that say about television "news?"

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