48 Hours on Explosion of True Crime Podcasting, Natalie Morales and Standout Broadcast Moments

By A.J. Katz 

We’re back with more from our interview with the folks at 48 Hours: Judy Tygard and the show’s longest-tenured correspondents Erin Moriarty and Peter Van Sant. The trio provided us with their respective takes on the explosion of true crime podcasting, how Natalie Morales fits into the family and touched on the most memorable moments of their time on this legendary broadcast so far.

Here’s the second part of our 48 Hours Q&A (Click here for part one):

TVNewser: There are so many true crime podcasts out these days. What’s something you wish these podcasts would do better or change, and do you feel there too many podcasts out right now?


Tygard: Well, I don’t like the speculation. If you are getting a podcast from CBS News, like Erin’s My Life of Crime, or the 48 Hours audio rip,  you’re getting facts, objectivity, you’re getting all sides. The problem with so many true crime podcasters is if you’re not working with the umbrella of CBS News or some other news organization, you can sit in your pajamas and you can speculate about all kinds of things. I think that underlines the integrity of those podcasts that are taking the journalism, objectivity, and taking both sides into account. That’s the thing that I don’t like — anybody can be a podcaster, right?

Moriarty: What I do love about podcasts, and I wish there was more of this, is that so there are so many cases out there. 48 Hours really does as many wrongful convictions as we can, or questionable convictions as we can, but they take so much investigation, and podcasts are really a great vehicle for that. I wish instead of opining, so many of these podcasters just opine about cases and and give opinion, I wish that there really was an effort at looking at some of these cases that might not make it on the traditional mainstream shows, news magazines. There are so many out there. I hear from people all the time. You can have real impact. I received a letter from a man by the name of Patrick Flaherty who had robbed four bodegas with an unloaded BB gun, and got 40 years. He was a beautiful writer, so I did a podcast. We did do a piece in the morning, and he got parole. It took me aback that just a podcast and letting him talk would have an impact. So, I think, what a wonderful, exciting thing that we have this other medium where we can maybe make a difference and or extricate people, and we’re not doing enough of that.

Sorry, I’m not sure everybody wants to be pushing that, but I love that.

Van Sant: I think the podcast world is a lot like the film industry. There are Steven Spielberg’s and there are pornographers. You have to pick and choose those of quality with journalistic background. Those are the people I focus on. I don’t have time to listen to a lot of podcasts. I did a story down in Alabama, where much of the coverage down there was fueled by a podcast that simply had fact after fact wrong. As we as we did our investigation, we straightened a lot of people out. But that’s my take on it. There are a lot. I always look at who’s doing the podcast, their journalistic background, and if the character is there and experience is there. I have much more trust, but there’s a lot of people — I know expression is always used but there a lot of people “down in their parents basement” who started a podcast and they read something and they comment on something that they haven’t really reported on. In some ways, in the wrong hands it can do harm.

Natalie Morales is a relatively new addition to the team. What has she added to the broadcast in her short time with you three?

Tygard: Natalie fits right in with us because first and foremost, she’s a team player, and despite her star power, she’s really collaborative, and amazingly, easygoing. We did not intend for this, when we ended up hazing her on her first shoot by sending her to these remote, godforsaken frozen sections of, of Colorado,  tramping around in the snow in Breckenridge on these frozen mountain passes with investigators. If that made her still happy to be on the team, we would feel really good.

She she is like Peter and Erin, a real journalist. She is experienced, she does the research, she does the homework. She is able, like Peter and Erin, to ask really hard questions respectfully, but she also has that warmth and empathy in connecting with the families of people who have lost loved ones. She just kind of fit right in, and she shared our DNA.

Moriarty: Not only that, but we’ve been on for 35 years, we want to be on another 35 years. Peter and I are probably not going to last quite the next 35 (laughter). We need journalists who will fit in well and and Natalie is that person. No question.  Jim Axelrod is a natural in this too. Peter and I will last as long as we can, but I don’t know if I’ll be here in the 70th year.

Do you have a standout moment over your years on the broadcast? It could be a story, it could be something behind the scenes, just anything you can pinpoint?

Moriarty: I have one right away and Judy won’t be surprised — watching Crosley Green walk out of prison. I started on that story in 1999, and he was on death row. To be able to see him go out and have the strawberry ice cream that he had been craving for years behind bars still makes me teary now.

Seeing Ryan Ferguson walk out, which we never ever guessed [would happen]. Those are my standouts, to see where where solid, long-term reporting that helps evidence surface is really the most rewarding.

Van Sant: I have a lot of things that are fun as well as profound. For me, most recently, were nominated for an Emmy for this; we did a two year investigation of murder-for-hire on the dark web. For this, you have to use a special browser, you can’t get to the dark web. You can’t Google it. It’s where everything’s encrypted, and many criminals go in there — drug trade, human trafficking.

So, this fellow who called himself Yura set up various websites where people could go and hire a hitman, at least they believe so, to to kill. Oftentimes, it was a spouse that was targeted. So, over the course of that investigation, we got into this and we, with the help of someone who formerly in US intelligence, were able to identify people who had been targeted. Long story short, it led to some really positive law enforcement action. Our last report on this we went after a person who we believe was deeply involved in this and we were told by our intel person that the murder for hire website basically collapsed after our report, which was deeply satisfying. Because what happened in this the short version is people would think they were hiring a hitman, but they really weren’t, so they would get frustrated and take matters into their own hands and kill; and by exposing all of this and getting on the inside—this is story that took us to the UK and and reporting from India and other places—we were able to really make some headway and knock this operation for a loop. That was very satisfying.

Tygard: My standout moment is to know that after 35 years where we are expanding. We’re on Paramount Plus, we’re on Pluto, Pluto Nordics, Pluto UK. We’re on YouTube, and we’re going to pilot with the third spinoff series of a podcast.

The most satisfying thing for me is that this brand is expanding in its 35th season and reaching a whole new audience on all of these different platforms.