CBS News is taking more than a few minutes to draw attention to this week’s broadcast of “48 Hours.” The reason? Producers think Saturday’s investigation is likely to strike a deeper chord than some of the tabloid-y crimes the news series usually tackles.
On Saturday, “48 Hours” will review the July, 2011, murder of Wayland, Mass., teenager Lauren Astley (pictured above), killed by her ex-boyfriend, Nathaniel Fujita (who was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life without parole in March of this year). In doing so, explained Susan Zirinsky, a CBS News veteran who is senior executive producer of the newsmagazine, the network believes it can call attention to the growing issue of so-called “breakup violence.”
“This isn’t just a story for us. We think we can have a real impact,” said Zirinsky, speaking to an assemblage of journalists and parenting and advocacy bloggers Wednesday afternoon. “This is a special show for us, and one that goes beyond a normal broadcast.”
Indeed, the pre-broadcast call to action marks only the second time “48 Hours” has sought to call attention to the issues behind one of its crime investigations, she said. The first time the program did so was to highlight a report on bullying.
CBS News correspondent Tracy Smith will take viewers through a series of harrowing interviews with friends of both Astley and Fujita, including the woman’s parents and the man’s uncle (producers said Fujita’s parents declined to be interviewed on camera).
Astley and Fujita had a tumultuous on-and-off relationship that appeared to have ended by their senior year, producers said. But a secret visit by Astley to an increasingly depressed Fujita proved fatal.
Citing research, CBS estimated one in three young adults between the ages of 14 and 20 has experienced some form of dating violence.
During its broadcast, “48 Hours” will provide information about the warning signs of dating violence and feature in its report several Massachusetts prevention efforts aimed at helping teens recognize signals of an unhealthy dating relationship.
For correspondent Smith, the broadcast is the latest in a series of reports she has done throughout her career on teenage violence. While working for Channel One, the news service broadcast to elementary-school classrooms, she did a seriesof reports on teens in abusive relations that won a Golden Hugo from the Chicago International Film Festival. She reported the previous “48 Hours” story about bullying.
Dating issues for young people “have gotten even more complicated with teens online,” Smith said.
CBS News will promote the report via social media as well as CBS Radio, said Zirinsky. “We are raising the flag on all CBS properties,” she said. She expects to be contacted by educators and others who may seek to play the report for specific audiences, including teenagers.
Producers spent considerable time talking with Astley’s father, Malcolm Astley and mother, Mary Dunne and trying to secure their participation, Zirinsky said. “The negotiation was long as to whether or not they would let us into their lives.” Malcolm Astley, who is now working to get breakup counseling made part of schools’ support efforts, was present at Wednesday’s presentation.
“The takeaway is not just that we can do a show and we can get a good rating,” said Zirinsky, adding, “a lot of times we know the imprint lives on.”