The Fox television show America’s Most Wanted (AMW) has been an American icon for longer than most of us can remember. Few are unfamiliar with the show’s host, John Walsh. Many of us sat captivated in front of our televisions wanting, perhaps even needing, to do our part. At times it felt that by watching the show we were doing our civic duty. That aside, the show itself is one with a fascinating history that makes it clear how valuable it is to our society. Viewers can sit around and accuse the executives at Fox of being insensitive and full of corporate greed for canceling AMW, but a closer examination of the show’s origins clearly demonstrates that this could not be further than the truth when it comes to AMW.
Adam Walsh, the son of AMW host John Walsh was 6 years old when he was abducted in Hollywood, Fla. Weeks later, authorities found the decapitated head of Adam. The primary suspect in Adam’s death was never charged and died in prison.
At the time of Adam’s death, John Walsh was a hotel marketing executive for a middle-class hotel. Adam’s death spurred Walsh into action, and he has since become one of America’s staunchest advocates in the fight to protect children. It was the Fox network that helped make that possible by giving the father of a murdered son a television show even though he had no television experience. In a sense, Fox greatly contributed to Walsh’s accomplishments in protecting children.
Walsh was largely responsible for the passing of two significant pieces of legislation aimed at protecting children, one of which includes his son’s name, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act and the 1982 Missing Child Act. The list of Walsh’s contributions does not stop there. He founded the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center and is a co-founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has been responsible for assisting authorities in the recovery of more than 100,000 missing children.
Perhaps AMW is not the most entertaining show, but few could argue the intrinsic value of a show that has directly contributed to locating countless missing children and apprehending 1,151 fugitives, most of whom are violent offenders. Do the math. AMW has directly contributed to the apprehension of nearly one major fugitive every week for the last 23 years. In terms of law enforcement, a fugitive task force that arrested a major fugitive every week for 23 years would be lauded as a huge success. Any calls to disband such a unit would result in public outcry.
Unfortunately, Fox executives can’t just look at apprehensions. In a business where dollars and advertisers, not arrests, drive the market, Fox has done its civic duty. Yet, John Walsh has demonstrated time and time again that he is not a man who gives up easily. He will continue to find ways to help.
We all consume massive quantities of television. Networks make millions and millions of dollars from the public. Perhaps it is time for other networks to take the reins from Fox and air AMW. After all, they and their shareholders have just as much responsibility to their viewers and the public as Fox. The question is which network will do the responsible thing and step forward to do its civic duty. Thousands of children and victims of violent crime are depending on them.
Thomas, Pierre and Michels, Scott. “Case Closed: Police ID Adam Walsh Killer.” ABC News. Dec. 16, 2008. May 17, 2011. http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=6471791&page=1 >
Associated Press. “America’s Most Wanted Canceled, but Host John Walsh “Not Ready to Throw in the Towel.” Fox News Online. May 16, 2011. May 17, 2011.