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Thinking in Print: Gabby Petito — far from the first

The investigation surrounding the disappearance and later death of influencer Gabby Petito has captivated the United States as prominent news networks and articles document the story. Yet, while Petito’s case makes headlines, many more missing person cases are neglected on a national and local scale.

According to Poynter, the extensive coverage of the Petito case is a combination of her extensively documenting her travels before disappearing, public intrigue toward her tragic death and seemingly idyllic life on social media and her young age as well as being white.

Statistically, white missing persons receive more coverage than minorities. In Petito’s home state of Wyoming, a report covering missing Indigenous persons from 2000 to 2020 found that “the homicide rate per 100,000 for Indigenous people was 26.8, eight times higher than the homicide rate for white people” yet only 30% of missing Indigenous people were covered in newspapers compared to 51% of missing white people.

This inequality is inexcusable when human lives are at stake. The publicity around Petito’s case has resulted in internet sleuths and police alike working to find answers, which most cases lack. Media coverage is vital to informing the public and finding potential witnesses, and it should be fully utilized regardless of what race the missing person is. 

Approximately 540,000 people were missing in the United States in 2020, and roughly 1,500 are missing in Ohio. Ohio also ranks as the 11th worst state for missing persons in 2021, and misses being the 10th worst by only three people. 

We may be unable to solve missing person cases on a national scale, but if Ohio’s communities come together with the same passion shown for the Petito case, perhaps our numbers can drop and the cases will have a happier outcome than Petito’s. No one wants to see a missing person murdered because the public was unaware that they should have been looking for suspicious activity. 

Ohio citizens should make it a point to actively keep up with missing person cases within their town and the surrounding counties. Ohio Missing Persons provides photos of those missing along with details about where they were last seen and what they were wearing. The cases range from being posted within the past week to the 1920s. This provides a long list of faces and names with families still looking for answers.

Petito’s death is tragic, and authorities should continue their attempts to bring her justice, but her case is one of hundreds of thousands. When the investigation inevitably leaves the spotlight, we should continue to apply the same enthusiasm to the missing within our local communities regardless of their race and status. 

Charlene Pepiot is a senior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her, cp872117@ohio.edu.

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