Bay Area news anchor suspended after fight over tagline criticizing lack of news coverage toward women of color

KTVU news anchor

Weeks after returning to KTVU, Bay Area veteran news anchor Frank Somerville was reportedly taken off the air again for allegedly disagreeing with a news director over the station’s coverage of Gabby Petito’s disappearance.

Newsroom spat: Somerville, 63, was reportedly slapped with an “indefinite suspension” after a newsroom spat with news director Amber Eikel over coverage of the Petito homicide case, a source familiar with the matter told the Mercury News.

  • The argument allegedly began when Somerville said he wanted to point out the disproportionate coverage devoted to missing white women over missing women of color. This was after authorities had announced they had found the body of Petito, 22, in Wyoming. Somerville is the adoptive father of a Black teen daughter.
  • The veteran Bay Area news anchor reportedly wanted to add a tagline at the end of the station’s report that questioned the intensity of the coverage Petito was receiving, but Eikel allegedly turned down the request saying it was inappropriate. Although Mercury News’ sources did not go into specifics on how heated the argument was, Channel 2 management allegedly informed Somerville of his suspension the next day.
  • Somerville’s latest suspension came as a surprise as the news anchor had just recently returned to KTVU following weeks of being off the air. The news anchor was pulled from a broadcast in June after he slurred his speech and had trouble reading the teleprompter on “The Ten O’Clock News,” SFist reported.

  • ABC News cited a statistics report from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center stating that 45% of the 89,000 missing cases reported at the end of 2020 involved people of color. Only one-fifth of missing person cases involving minorities are covered by the media, however.
  • MSNBC’s Joy Reid argued the nationwide coverage of Petito’s case was an example of “missing White woman syndrome,” a term coined by late journalist broadcaster Gwen Ifill. It refers to the phenomenon wherein the media provides a lopsided focus on missing white women and girls in comparison to missing cases involving women of color.

Not surprised: Speaking to ABC News, Maricris Drouaillet said she was not surprised by the attention the Petito case received nationwide and that the coverage of Petito’s case brought up emotions of “hurt and heartbreak.”

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  • Drouaillet has been tirelessly searching for her sister Maya Millete, who was reported missing from her Chula Vista, Calif., home in January. Drouaillet and her family moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when Maya was only 12.
  • Even before Gabby’s case was out there, I felt that maybe if we were white or with money or had names, we probably would have gotten a different approach, more help and support,” she said. “That’s how I feel. That hurts a lot.”

Featured Image via Matthew Keys (left), Nomadic Statik (right)

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