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From the May 1999 MediaWatch

On the Bright Side:
ABC Focused on Teen's Faith

Church Credited

"Today at Cassie Bernallís funeral friends and family celebrated the strength of one young girlís faith," ABCís Peggy Wehmeyer observed in opening a story unusual for network TV, about how church and faith straightened out a wayward teen. Various forms of Wehmeyerís April 26 profile of one of the students killed at Columbine High School ran on Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and 20/20.

On World News Tonight Wehmeyer, the only religion reporter employed by a network, noted how Cassie Bernallís "story has touched the Christian community here because of how she responded when she was challenged by her killer." Her father told Wehmeyer how one of the killers asked Cassie if she believed in God, "she boldly said yes" and was shot dead.

Wehmeyer explained how religion turned Cassieís life around: "Cassieís faith in God had not come easily. In her early adolescence she was angry and rebellious, dabbling in witchcraft and experimenting with drugs and alcohol." Her parents felt they had to step in, Wehmeyer recalled: "Cassie wasnít allowed to see her friends or use the phone. The only place she could go was to church, to an intense weekend church retreat which her parents said changed her life."

Her mother told Wehmeyer: "She looked at me in the eye and she said, ĎMom, Iíve changed.í" Wehmeyer picked up: "Just two days before she died Cassie Bernall recorded these words on a video for her youth group." Viewers saw Cassie in a home video proclaiming something possibly unprecedented for a network news story to include: "You really canít live without Christ. Itís like impossible to really have a true life without him."

Wehmeyer concluded by highlighting Cassieís legacy: "Today Cassieís friends and family are determined that she will be remembered as a modern day martyr, a young woman willing to die for her faith."





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