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The media can be a powerful tool when asking the public for help in locating a missing adult.  The following suggestions are meant for those who may have limited experience in dealing with media.

  1. The choice to speak with the media is yours.  If you do decide to speak with the media, it is important to understand that you will have little control over what is actually reported and how it is presented to the public.
  2. Treat everything that you say as being “on the record”.  Taking time to prepare for an interview helps to review what pieces of information you want to make public.  You may want to appoint a family spokesperson to deliver consistent messages to the media.
  3. If there is suspicion that your loved one’s disappearance is due to foul play/suspicious circumstances, media coverage can affect the investigation and potentially impact the criminal case.  It is important to check with police before speaking with the media to confirm what you can and cannot release publicly.  Ask police if they would like to participate in the interview.
  4. Be cautious about what you post in social media spaces as journalists can access and publish this information.  Do not share your personal information or telephone number on Facebook or other websites in order to solicit tips about your missing loved one.  Instead, use Crime Stoppers toll-free numbers and those of the police force handling the investigation.
  5. Your privacy may be difficult to guard.  Once the media report the nature and details of your case, it becomes part of the public domain.
  6. Remember that the media can report on a missing person, the circumstances of the disappearance, the outcome, the police investigation and/or criminal proceedings (if they occur) at any time.  This includes anniversaries or when similar events occur in your community.  These reports may take families by surprise months and years later.
  7. Media interest and coverage varies from case to case.  It also declines over time – especially if there are no new developments.  Reporting depends on whether a story is considered “newsworthy” and what other news is competing for coverage at the time.
  8. The tone of media coverage can change at any time.  For example, initially the media may portray the missing person in a positive light and then suddenly coverage can become more negative.  If a missing person has a mental health issue, addiction or criminal record, the media may place blame on the missing person or family members for what happened to them.

If you feel that you or your missing loved one has been treated unfairly or negatively by the media, you can contact the editor or reporter and speak to them about issuing a correction.

The nature of media interest

Families of the missing need to prepare for the possibility that the media may not publicize news about their loved one.

Even when media coverage has been extensive, family and friends must realize that coverage is difficult to maintain over time.

Adapted from the publication “If the Media Calls: A Guide for Crime Victims & Survivors” developed by the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, March 2012.