It had all the makings of what could be a tragic situation. An attractive 31-year-old wife and mother of a one-year-old child doesn’t return from a Saturday shopping trip in a reasonably nice suburb of Dayton, Ohio. The next morning, Tiffany Tehan’s vehicle is found at a nearby park with a flat tire, and, interestingly enough, the keys still locked inside. The Xenia graduate of a Christian college’s picture was plastered all over the local media. A website was placed online, as well as a Facebook page, and hundreds of volunteers from her church and community fanned out to place flyers in the community. The family appears on local news, as well as all of the network early morning shows.

By Monday, a “person of interest” had been seen in surveillance videos at a convenience store with the missing woman. They had been together several times, according to a clerk. It took until Wednesday evening for police to spot the man’s vehicle. Finally, after the FBI gets involved, and the Ohio case is featured on national cable news, Tiffany resurfaces in Miami, Florida with Goatee Man.

Like Balloon Boy, the media jumps on a story quite possibly without asking some tough questions. It was certainly right for the locals to report on the dissapearance, but was it concern or exploitation that got the national media on board.

The media has been rightly criticized for focusing attention on attractive white woman who are missing, but giving no attention or publicity to thousands of other missing person cases, where it may be an elderly black man or someone else who doesn’t fit the mold that will attract ratings.

I don’t know what the young woman was thinking, so I will reserve judgement. For all I know, this whole thing could be a publicity stunt! No doubt a Lifetime movie is already being cast, and the phone will be ringing for appearances all over TV.

Will all this hoopla make the general public think twice about helping the next time someone is reported missing? How should the media handle these cases?