I got home Thursday night and logged onto freep.com, the Web site of the Detroit Free Press, my hometown paper. Under their list of most popular stories was one with a headline something like, "Body of missing porn star found.” I thought for a second, "Surely, that’s not the Emily Sander story.” But, unfortunately it was.
I guess I should have known it was coming. Tim Potter, our reporter who has covered the story this week, started getting calls from shows like "Inside Edition" and national cable news shows on Thursday. That was a day after the Associated Press reported that Sander appeared on an adult Web site. It was obvious why they were calling, and it had nothing to do with their concern for Sander or her family. A missing persons story had suddenly gotten a lot sexier.
Reporting that Sander was involved with the adult site was fair because police were trying to determine whether that had anything to do with her disappearance. The Eagle included the information in our Thursday edition and at Kansas.com. But by Thursday morning, police had discounted any link between the site and Sander’s disappearance. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop a lot of national media missing from labeling Sander as a "missing porn star.”
It’s pretty easy to label people, and we in the media — including The Eagle — sometimes fall into that trap. Emily Sander was many things — student, daughter, granddaughter, friend. If the national media was going to pick a label, I think it would have been more appropriate to pick one of those.