Frank Somerville: KTVU anchor fired for discussion on 'missing White woman syndrome'

Frank Somerville wanted to add a brief tagline at the end of a KTVU report on Gabby Petito homicide case to talk about 'missing White woman syndrome'

                            Frank Somerville: KTVU anchor fired for discussion on 'missing White woman syndrome'
Frank Somerville, a three-time Emmy winner, with his adoptive daughter (Frank Somerville/Twitter)

A news anchor from San Francisco has been 'suspended indefinitely' after an argument with the station's news director over media coverage of the Gabby Petito homicide case. Frank Somerville, 63, reportedly wanted to add a 'brief tagline' at the end of a KTVU report to talk about 'missing White woman syndrome'. Somerville, a three-time Emmy winner, is the adoptive father of a Black daughter.

Somerville reportedly wanted to question the amount of coverage Gabby Petito's case received, but news director Amber Eikel thought that the tagline he suggested was 'inappropriate'. However, following an argument between Somerville and Eikel, the former was suspended indefinitely. The missing vlogger's body was discovered in a Wyoming campsite last week and an arrest warrant has been issued by the FBI for Petito’s fiance, Brian Laundrie. Since then her story has taken the world by storm. 


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Brian Laundrie (Instagram/brianlaundrie)

'Missing White woman syndrome' is a phrase coined by late journalist Gwen Ifill and refers to how missing people from minority groups, and men, are not given the kind and amount of media coverage that missing young, white women are given.

Who is Frank Somerville?

While Somerville was attending San Francisco State University in 1981, he interned at KTVU. In 1992, he became co-anchor of the station's popular Mornings on 2 show. He was also named anchor of Channel 2 News at 5 in April 2005, when it was launched.  When reached out to Somerville for a comment, he said, "I can't right now for my own protection. What I can tell you is that most of the reports you're reading are generally correct." Somerville's suspension comes over a month after he came back to desk, following an incident on May 30 where he slurred his words live on air.

Gabby Petito (Instagram/gabspetito)

The media coverage of Petito's case was criticized by many who believed that not all groups of people who go missing receive the same attention. Criticizing the media coverage, MSNBC host Joy Reid said, "But the way this story has captivated the nation has many wondering - why not the same media attention when people of color go missing?" "Well, the answer actually has a name," Reid continued, "'Missing White woman syndrome'." Reid further claimed that missing women of color do not receive the same attention because of their appearance and because they do not look like the daughters or granddaughters of newsroom executives. 

ABC News reported that more than 89,000 active missing person cases had to be handled by the FBI at the end of 2020, and 45 percent of the missing persons were people of color. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology suggests that only one-fifth of missing person cases that involve minorities are covered by the media.