Earlier this year, a reporter for the Victoria Advocate newspaper in Victoria, Texas, contacted me to talk about my work investigating missing person cases. He specifically wanted to focus on the disappearance of Antonio Vela Jr., a music producer from Victoria who mysteriously vanished after leaving a bar on June 15, 2017, and whose disappearance I've been covering ever since.
The Victoria Advocate has followed the case from the beginning. Kit MacAvoy, the reporter who reached out, wanted to highlight how Antonio's family is turning to independent journalists and podcasts to reach a wider audience and hopefully generate new leads.
MacAvoy asked why I chose to cover Antonio's case. As I explained on The Vanished Podcast, thousands of people are reported missing in the United States yearly, but only some receive national media attention. People of color, especially men, are less likely to get coverage, and all too often, the focus is on whether they have a criminal background or a history of running away. Missing black and brown people rarely make the news let alone become household names. Think about it. How many missing black or brown people can you name without searching on google? Even more troubling, according to a 2019 study by The College of William and Mary, cases involving missing people of color are less likely to be solved.
Our news industry needs to improve how it covers missing persons in underrepresented communities. It's long overdue. I often hear from families, like the Velas, who feel frustrated, confused, and with nowhere to turn to get their loved one's case in the public eye. That's why the Velas and other families are turning to independent journalists and podcasts to help get the word out.
Click here to read the full article in The Victoria Advocate. I hope conversations like the one I had with MacAvoy take place in newsrooms across the country. It shouldn't just be us reporters, the boots on the ground, who should push to cover missing persons in vulnerable communities. It takes everyone behind the scenes, producers, executive producers, assignment editors, and news directors. They decide what you, the viewers, see on the news. While the media can't cover every missing person story, there are plenty of black and brown people whose disappearances stand out and desperately need media exposure.
In the case ofAntonio Vela Jr., whatever happened the night he vanished, he still has a family who loves and misses him. And, like every other family waiting for their missing loved one to come home, the Velas deserve answers and justice.
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Claudia Rivero Investigative Reporter/Producer