UNION CITY, Ind. — A onetime graduate of Union City High School has returned to his hometown, and his alma mater, to rebuild KISS-TV, the very same media program he attended when he was a Union City student in the 1980s.
One of Brian Merrill’s instructors in the KISS-TV program was John Schmidt, the former Union City High teacher who started the station back in 1972. Now Merrill hopes to help restore the station, and the program, to its former glory.
After working in electronic engineering for several years, Merrill transitioned into radio, where his first on-air gig was at WTGR in Greenville. He later worked at WZZY, a station in Randolph County, Indiana.
Then, three years ago, Merrill took over high school radio station WEEM in Pendleton Heights, Indiana. Merrill spent three years at Pendleton Heights, and during that time WEEM was nominated for 18 state and national awards and took home 14, including National High School Radio Station of the Year. Merrill himself was named High School Radio Station Manager of the Year.
“This is the funnest job I’ve ever had, and I can see why educators do it,” Merrill said of working with the students at WEEM and KISS-TV. “It’s a true joy to be able to educate kids at this level.”
The “KISS” in KISS-TV stands for “Kable Integrated Study Seminar,” or as Merrill and his high school classmates often joked about the creatively spelled acronym, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” The long-running program was sidelined by the school district last year, but there was such an outpouring of support from the community and the student body for bringing it back that Merrill was brought in less than a year later to revive it.
“They asked me, ‘Hey, would you be willing to come back and start this program back up?’” Merrill said. “It’s been very nice to come back and run the program that I took as a kid. I’ve been involved in all facets of media, and it’s thrilling to come back and be able to educate these kids about it.”
Merrill faces a tough task in rebuilding a program that had been sidelined for a year, including updating the station’s equipment to high definition, as well as branching into such new platforms as internet radio, podcasting, and social media management.
“As I tell my students, you could put something up on YouTube and if it goes viral, you’re set,” Merrill said. “I’ve studied social media marketing extensively, and I want that to be a big part of our program here.”
Merrill would also like to transition KISS-TV into a vocational program that would be open to students from other schools, both in Randolph County, Indiana as well as in Darke County, and would possibly offer college credit courses;. to cover sporting events in both counties; and to collaborate on certain programs and events with students in Greenville High School’s media program.
“I see a big picture in all that, but you have to crawl before you can walk,” Merrill said. “This program isn’t exactly in its infancy, but it’s in a rebuilding phase.”
Ultimately, the successes of the next year or so will determine how far the program goes in the future.
“I’d love to see as many kids take this program as possible,” Merrill said. “The more kids you have, the more creative you can be.”