Hi Readers! Maybe you were watching “Good Morning America” today, with its incredible footage of Jaycee Dugard and her family. Jaycee is the 29-year-old who was kidnapped at age 11 and forced to live with her rapist for 18 years, bearing him two children. But, according to George Stephanopoulos, “Jaycee, in some ways, is one of the lucky ones. She finally made it home. But more than 2,000 children are reported missing every day.”
Great sound bite, George — but you got spun. Yes, 2,000 kids are reported missing every day. I’m sure my mom reported me the time I hid in my closet for three hours. (Every time I thought about coming out I felt too guilty, so in I stayed – feeling worse and worse.) The point is: 90% of those missing kids return home that same day. The vast majority of those who don’t come back that night are either runaways — usually teens — or kids taken by a non-custodial parent in a divorce dispute.
Ignore that critical part of the story and the average viewer is left to think, “Oh my god! TWO THOUSAND children are snatched like Jaycee every day! But only Jaycee was lucky enough to get out alive, so I guess the other 1,999 were killed!” Two thousand missing children a day is 730,000 kids a year. But the number of children who are actually kidnapped and held overnight by strangers is, according to FBI stats, 115. Not a day. A YEAR. And 50 of them are killed.
Alas, that’s the way TV news works, and not just on ABC: Tell viewers the worst, avoid any explanation of an extremely alarming statistic, and cut to commercial. “We’ll be back with more after this!”
They always are. — Lenore