Most evening-news segments last anywhere from a few seconds to just a few minutes. Tonight, “CBS Evening News” will unveil what is expected to be the first of at least four segments that take a long look at a group of high-school dropouts trying to turn their lives around.
Correspondent Michelle Miller has spent the last three months traveling back and forth to Los Angeles as part of an effort to follow students inside the Sunburst Youth Challenge Academy, a program run by the National Guard for at-risk teens. The goal is to chronicle the kids’ efforts from their first day until graduation, Miller said in an interview.
“These are young adults who have entirely lost their way,” she explained. “They haven’t moved into the criminal justice system. They are just short of crossing that line, and realized that they have got to do something if they want to move forward.”
The in-depth approach is one which the venerable CBS newscast has been highlighting under the aegis of Steve Capus, the former NBC News president who came on board as executive producer for the Scott Pelley-anchored program in July. To be sure, much of the program dovetails with the expected. A typical segment on the show is about a minute and 45 seconds. But Capus has encouraged the occasional deep dive, whether it is a multi-part series or a report lasting more than five minutes.
CBS News has placed several producers at the Los Angeles facility, and Kim Godwin, a senior producer who is supervising the series, said coverage will extend from the newscast to the web, where more footage can be streamed for interested viewers. This kind of report “doesn’t happen a lot on a network news program,” she said.
The Sunburst academy, located 30 miles south of Los Angeles, is the National Guard’s top performing academy, and has a 93% graduation rate. Almost half of those students later go to college. Others join the military or the workforce. Miller and her team were able to chronicle parents, guardians, friends and neighbors dropping off the faciliity’s newest class of 16- to 18-year-old high school dropouts. The program runs through December, and Miller will track their progress and speak with the cadets about their achievements and failures.
Additional reporting, extended interviews with students and their instructors and behind-the-scenes footage will be featured on CBSNews.com.