Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Glaring Omission: Would the Disappearance of Mitrice Richardson Have Been a Media Mainstay If Reporters Knew She Was Gay?

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Glaring Omission: Would the Disappearance of Mitrice Richardson Have Been a Media Mainstay If Reporters Knew She Was Gay?

Article excerpt

For a news media obsessed with beautiful young women in peril (e.g., Natalee Holloway, Elizabeth Smart, Laci Peterson) but often accused of not reporting on similar stories involving women of color, the case involving the disappearance of 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson seemed like an antidote. Richardson, an African-American beauty queen and a college graduate with a 4.0 GPA, was arrested September 16, 2009, at a restaurant in Malibu, Calif., because she was unable to pay her $89.51 bill. The Los Angeles County sheriff's department released Richardson from custody shortly after midnight without money, a phone, or a way to get to her home in south Los Angeles. She was never seen alive again.

Each update to her case made headlines in the Los Angeles Times, and CNN's Jane Velez-Mitchell and Nancy Grace discussed her story. Richardson even appeared on the cover of People along with five other missing people. When Sheriff Lee Baca announced at a press conference August 12 that Richardson's body had been found in the bottom of a ravine in Malibu Canyon, her father thanked the mediator keeping his daughter's case alive.

Some of the reporting had found ways to sexualize her: It was often mentioned that she was a dancer at a lesbian bar, and there was a published rumor during her disappearance that she was working as a prostitute in Las Vegas--though the fact that she was a lesbian herself was barely mentioned. Television reporters rarely pointed out her committed two-year relationship with a woman named Tessa Moon, whose name was tattooed on Richardson's stomach. …

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