The Show

Behind the Headlines

Three-year-old Caylee Anthony made headlines when her grandmother, Cindy, placed a frantic 911 call to report her missing. By the time she called the police, her granddaughter had been missing for one month. Where was Caylee’s mother, Casey, all that time?

Biased Coverage?


Ernie Allen, president and founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, joins the discussion via satellite. 


Dr. Phil explores the racial subtext of the story. "Common sense, just common experience, tells me that blonde-haired, blue-eyed, gorgeous little children get a lot more exposure and attention locally and nationally than do those from lower socio-economic strata and those from minorities," Dr. Phil points out. "Set me straight, Ernie."

"There are thousands of missing children whom we are trying to get media attention for, because media works. The problem is, the media selects four or five cases a year, not 4,000 or 5,000," Ernie replies. "I've talked to news directors. What they tell me is, ‘First and foremost, this looks like just another missing kid. What's news about it?' In Caylee's case, you talk about the bizarre circumstances " sensational, dramatic circumstances. That's what causes the media to seize on these cases. But it's a problem. We need to be getting attention to many more of these kids."

"Can you name one of these cases, in the last four or five years, that was a minority case that got the media attention?" Dr. Phil probes.

"A little girl in Philadelphia in 2002 " a 7-year-old named Erica Pratt, who was abducted for ransom and escaped " received intense media coverage. Probably the most dramatic example was, of course, the children who were missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," Ernie responds. "We helped find 5,200 kids. So the media works. The challenge is, there are just not enough kids being focused on."

1 of 3