Alice Gray Gregory and Pat Jobe have a lot in common. They were both raised in small towns in the Carolinas. As children and young adults they were troubled by the inequity and the injustice they saw around them. They grew up to pursue convoluted careers. Jobe has been a newspaper editor, writer, broadcaster, and United Methodist minister. Gregory has traveled the world, worked with Habitat for Humanity in Africa, and been a homebuilder (and president of the Homebuilders Association) in Beaufort.
Something else they have in common is a hatred of television. Ironic, then, that they should be collaborating on a new Lowcountry television program.
The Connection is the television show for people who don't like television, said Jobe, whose previous broadcasting experience was in public radio. (He's one of the authors of the popular Radio Free Bubba collections of essays.) In an era when all media is controlled by just a few global conglomerates and often presents a one-sided view of the news, the necessity for independent media has never been greater. The Connection professes the simple goal of making South Carolina a better place to live by bringing people together — by making connections.
"We believe South Carolina would be a better place if we had fairer taxes, if we had better schools, if we had more equitable laws," Gregory said. "We can accomplish more by working together than by working separately. But to work together we have to get to know each other and learn to communicate and trust."
On the air for just over a month now, The Connection has already produced and aired three half-hour shows. The first was on the Charleston Clemente Program, which offers free college-level humanities courses to disadvantaged people in the Charleston area, in the hope that a study of classical literature, philosophy, art, and history can offer a way out of poverty through intellectual freedom. The Clemente Program is conducted by Trident Technical College and funded by The Humanities Council of South Carolina. The Connection featured several Charleston-area people who have had their lives turned around, who have gotten off welfare, who are now employed and contributing to the community because of Clemente.
The second program dealt with the recent referendum of Amendment 1 to the state constitution and how it will discriminate against nontraditional families.
Upcoming shows will take on such topics as sustainable farming; an organization of mothers who are into everything from natural birth and breastfeeding to bio-diesel energy and anti-war politics; the Citizens Patrol Against Crime; and a local group of ministers called Pastors, Inc.
The moment of inception for The Connection came over a table at Santi's Mexican Restaurant on February 8, where Jobe, Gregory, and Linda Ketner, head of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, found themselves talking about the situation in South Carolina and wondering what it would take to get people out of the mall and off the couch, to get them involved in their communities and working to solve problems.
"The problem is that for many people nothing is real until it's on television," Jobe said. It was that understanding that brought the three of them to the conclusion that they must fight television with television.
It has taken nearly a year, but The Connection is on the air — or on cable, actually — with Jobe as host and Gregory as executive producer. It can be seen on Comcast 2 at 9 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays and at noon on Saturdays and Sundays. In Summerville, it can be seen on Channel 9 every night at 9 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at noon.
Today, the main challenge for The Connection is raising money, Gregory said. "A weekly television production isn't cheap. We're looking for advertisers and business sponsors. We've also received a $20,000 challenge grant on the condition that we raise another $20,000 by Dec. 31."
To learn more, go to www.TheConnectionShow.org.