Posted: November 20, 2015 Story by Parker King, junior broadcast journalism major
Child abduction. It’s a crime that is often sensationalized by the media and one that
terrifies most parents. For many it’s a hard subject to talk about, but for Leigh
Moscowitz, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications,
it’s the focus of her latest book. Moscowitz co-authored Snatched: Child Abductions in U.S. Media, the first book-length study to examine national media coverage of child abductions
in the 2000s.
“It’s certainly a difficult, terrifying and uncomfortable topic to research and write
about, but an important one,” Moscowitz said. “Kidnapping stories that attract national
media coverage are about much more than just the crime itself. They shape our cultural
understandings of childhood and communicate important social lessons about parenting,
community, safety and danger.”
Moscowitz kicked off a promotional tour for the book with a lecture to students and
faculty in the multimedia room of the newly renovated School of Journalism and Mass
During the talk, Moscowitz discussed the lopsided coverage of child abduction cases
that received the most news coverage in the 2000s. She argued that the media tend
to exclusively cover cases involving the disappearance of young, middle-to-upper class
white girls, even though such crimes are statistically rare and on the decline. Research
in the book also focuses on the sensationalized coverage that often blames victims
of long-term abductions for failing to escape from their captivity. Moscowitz also
discussed how news coverage has evolved by tracing the history of child abductions
in the media throughout the decades, ranging from the 1920s to the 2000s.
Research on the project, which was a collaboration between Moscowitz and co-author
Spring-Serenity Duvall, associate professor of communications in the Department of
Communications at Salem College, began more than 10 years ago. The two met while earning
their doctorate degrees at Indiana University.
“It was important for us to track and analyze media coverage over time so we could
show how the news framing evolved,” Moscowitz said. “This approach allowed us to investigate
a decade of time in which both cultural anxieties and media coverage were quite high,
even though the number of actual cases of missing children was quite low.”
Moscowitz will travel with Duvall across the Southeast region of the U.S. over the
next several months to give campus talks about their research.
More information about Snatched can be found here.
Parker King is a junior broadcast journalism major, and sports and entertainment minor
from Norfolk, Virginia. For the past two summers she has worked as a production technician
for WTKR-TV, and is an active member of Chi Omega Fraternity.
Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.