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‘WITN's Class of 2009’ - Better Than The Best

By: Karin Goodhue
By: Karin Goodhue

'WITN's Class of 2009' is different than the 'Best of the Class'. Read about why we changed it, and how it came to be.

“WITN and Sylvan Learning Center are proud to present WITN’s Class of 2009.” Hearing these words are much different than, “You’re the BEST of the claaaaasss… this year.” WITN viewers have heard those lyrics for the past fifteen years, and it was great while it lasted. But now, it’s time for a change.

The ‘Best of the Class’ is a syndicated trademark that news stations use around the country to promote their local high school seniors. Any station is authorized to use the ‘Best of the Class’ music and graphics… for a fee. WITN bought into the program for years starting in the early 1990s. We featured high school seniors from Eastern North Carolina wearing their caps and gowns, waving at a camera, and… well, that’s about it.

The students of Eastern Carolina deserve more. In early February 2009, Ashley Stephenson (Sales), John Washington (Promotions) and I sat down and brainstormed on how to create that with ‘WITN’s Class of 2009’. First off, we decided that academic credentials should not be the deciding factor for the school’s nomination. We wanted students in our class who had amazing stories that tugged at the heartstrings of our web readers. We wanted seniors who could overcome anything to succeed. We wanted students who had an army of supporters behind them. We wanted a ‘Class of Heroes’. And to feature them properly, we wanted everything personalized.

Just having each student’s name featured in ‘Best of the Class’ wasn’t enough. We wanted viewers to learn about every one of them, read their stories, and discover their plans for the future. We wanted our viewers to see them in their personal environments. We wanted our students to have five seconds of fame in an on-air commercial, their own web page, and a video testimonial. We also wanted to give our Class of 2009 the opportunity to make their own videos, or film their content at the WITN studio.

Since we wanted everything personalized, the students who would choose to come to the studio would not be filmed in their own setting (as opposed to those who made their own videos), so we wanted to give them that personal touch too. We wanted each teenager to have a moving background with their school colors, a choice of background graphic for their online testimonial, and the opportunity to say or do whatever they wanted. We wanted a lot… the best.

When the preliminary work for “Class of 2009” was complete, we picked out new music, received approval from management, and ran with the idea. It was time to turn the idea into reality.

This year, we chose to communicate exclusively via e-mail, instead of post mail that WITN has used in the past. On March 3rd 2009, I sent out eighty invitations to Eastern NC High Schools. They were delivered to each principal or headmaster/headmistress’ school e-mail account. 48 schools responded with a student nomination. I explained the new program to the students, and requested many deadlines. Most of them met the target dates extremely well. Three of the students unfortunately dropped out due to lack of time, leaving 45 total.

Almost ten weeks later, reality has arrived. The commercials are airing, and the website is active with 45 different web pages. I'd like to issue a big THANKS to everyone who helped make it happen. The seniors of 2009 are finally highlighted unlike any other. They have the opportunity to SHINE. I am thankful to have been able to meet them, work with them, and learn about their amazing young lives.

Click Here to view the Students of 'WITN's Class of 2009'

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