Dayton, Ohio, had a difficult year in 2019. So when WRGT wanted to do a year-ending message, it needed something special, something that summed up all the area had gone through. It needed a personal touch for the spot, something that would show the town support and love. And it came from Hollywood.
Dayton, Ohio, had a difficult year in 2019.
“It was just a really rough year,” said Betsy Russell, the creative services director for WRGT, Sinclair’s Fox affiliate there (DMA 63).
“I mean just one thing after thing, the tornados on Memorial Day, the KKK choosing to come hold a rally in downtown Dayton. Then nine people being killed in the mass shooting which was just horrible. To make matters even harder, a Dayton police officer was killed in the line of duty in November. Through all of this, the citizens of Dayton and the surrounding Miami Valley stayed strong and united.”
Russell said covering all the tragedies had even taken a toll on the people in the newsroom “to constantly report on these tragedies that have happened throughout our whole year last year.”
Yet, the station didn’t just sit by and report.
“We weren’t just talking about the tragedy,” said Russell. “We were also all out there in the community. We were seeing what we could do.”
The station filled a truck during a water drive after the tornadoes that got distributed. A back-to-school backpack drive for the students who didn’t have homes or had to go to different schools because their schools were demolished by tornadoes.
So when WRGT wanted to do a year-ending message, it needed something special, something that summed up all the area had gone through. It needed a personal touch for the spot, something that would show the town support and love.
And it came from Hollywood, of all places.
Rob Lowe was from the area, and hadn’t forgotten his roots.
“He arranged to have a stop in Dayton so he could help support after the tornados,” said Russell.
And one thing led to another. Lowe was starring in a new show on Fox, 9-1-1 Lone Star, that debuts Jan. 19. So the station talked to their reps at Fox to see if Lowe would agree to narrate the spot they wrote.
“Within a few hours they contacted him and he agreed to read our copy. He turned it within a day. It was amazing.”
Russell was told Lowe agreed to do it without seeing the script first.
Lowe threw himself into the project, directing himself as he recorded the copy over and over, trying to improve the lines.
“Everybody within the station thought it was very cool that he was supporting it,” said Russell.
“Our news department were just so proud that they had been supported by him as well because a lot of what we wanted to highlight was not just how much the community rallied, but that we did it with the community. That we were out there with everybody, we were walking the walk with them being out there supporting.”
When Lowe’s voice recording came back to the station and Russell’s staff put it into the one-minute spot, “it did give me chills. He said it with so much emotion and feeling and that was what we were trying to achieve was just letting everybody know that no matter what, we are still with them.”
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