WFIE Evansville, Ind.’s marketing department created an hour-long special on sexual violence to air in primetime, normally the role of news. But Brandon Ridge was on a mission. “We could literally be saving someone’s life if we motivate them to get out of a relationship. News does that all the time, but marketing typically doesn’t get to jump into that arena. So for us, we handled it with great respect and dignity.”
Brandon Ridge, marketing and creative director at Raycom’s NBC affil WFIE Evansville, Ind., was on his way to work when he witnessed a sexual assault taking place on the street in Evansville.
“I saw the woman struggling and screaming and I was like oh my God, this is really unfolding in front of everybody.” Ridge called 911.
That incident led Ridge to a women’s shelter where the idea of creating an hour-long special on domestic violence was born.
“This women’s shelter kind of put it in my ear that it was domestic violence awareness month. They were able to give us these amazing three survivors to tell their stories.”
Those three survivors became the basis for the special, Choosing to Survive, which aired at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, covering NBC’s Law and Order SVU. It again aired on Evansville’s PBS station, WNIN, on Friday, Oct. 19.
“Between writing, the shooting, the graphics, just the producing of it in general, that was all the marketing department,” said Ridge.
Ridge explained that the special was part of WFIE’s Peace of Mind umbrella, a station-wide initiative to bring awareness to community issues like safety in schools, suicide and mental health.
“The topic was kind of top of mind to us.”
Before work began on the project, Ridge told his marketing staff that, “a lot of times what we do, people don’t die. But this mission that we’re on to tell their story, we could literally be saving someone’s life if we motivate them to get out of a relationship. News does that all the time, but marketing typically doesn’t get to jump into that arena. So for us, we handled it with great respect and dignity.”
The special took two weeks to produce and it involved the entire marketing staff.
“They warned us of a secondary trauma from hearing these stories over and over and over and over again when we were editing and it was true. We had tears in our eyes watching this.”
Ridge said they watched a screening of the special with the survivors.
“We sat next to the survivors watching them tell their stories and I don’t think I’ve ever been emotionally impacted that way. A lot of times we tell a story, we put it on the news and we don’t have to worry about seeing the person that’s affected by whatever story it is, but in this case, we were sitting right next to them and it was just very emotional.”
Ridge said he, and many of those who watched the special, were moved by the bravery of the survivors to come forward and tell their stories on television.
Wow. Literally just watched all 43 minutes of this. These women are so, so brave for telling their stories. This is going to help someone out there who needs it. Well done.
Your care in conveying such an important topic is obvious. A quality piece, powerful stories.
I just had the chance to watch the Peace of Mind Project from Thursday night, and can’t begin to say what a powerful and important story you told. The strength of the survivors to step forward and share their experiences will give hope to others who are suffering, and you handled it with dignity and compassion while sharing resources to escape abusive relationships. It’s a great example of what caring, community journalism can do to make us all better. Thanks for your work (and please share with any others who are helping with the project). You’re making a difference.
“They cried. We all did a little. They were like ‘this is what happened to me’. They just felt like it was their responsibility, like it was their job to stand up and say something.”