FREEZE FRAME 

The Connection: Left Out

It was always a long shot. Perhaps too long. The Connection sought to change the world — or at least this little patch of it called the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The homegrown cable program that ran on local Comcast channels (and still nationwide on Dish Free Speech TV) explored racism, religion, poverty, and the ways ideas and culture shape the way we live.

Now it's gone. After 15 programs, producer Alice Gray Gregory and host Pat Jobe announced last week that The Connection has taped its last show.

"Financing has always been the obstacle," Gregory said last week on the patio at Kudu Coffee, where friends and fans have gathered since last autumn to view the latest Connection program on DVD and listen to local poets and songsters.

The first Connection ran last fall, before the November election, and addressed the Amendment 1 referendum against gay marriage. Other shows explored the Clemente Program, a free college-level humanities course offered to the homeless and the financially disadvantaged in an effort to rebuild lives and communities; and featured Greg Liotta, a clinical counselor and mediator who works to bring racial and ethnic groups together to explore their individual and collective humanity.

Gregory and Jobe announced last week that The Connection will not be back for a second season. The 501(c)(3) program drew a lot of idealistic dollars, but in the end, not enough.

"We counted on a handful of people for our financing," Jobe said, "and we probably needed 15 or 20 large financiers."

They had planned to take the summer off and come back next fall with another run of warm and gritty half-hour documentaries. But along the way they talked to a financial consultant, who looked at their books and their plans. "She helped us understand that this just wasn't viable," Gregory said.

"Our original vision had been to go statewide," Jobe said. "We ended up being Lowcountry-wide, but I think we were always true to our vision."

Now Jobe and Gregory seem to be bound in different directions. Gregory, a Lancaster County native and world traveler, is headed back out to the South Pacific. Jobe, a former teacher and Methodist preacher from Forest City, N.C., is headed back to Forest City to take care of his 86-year-old father and "maybe do some preachin', maybe do some teachin'."

"It was fun," Jobe said. "It took a while to find our voice. It took a lot of trial and error ... I think we did what we were trying to do."

The Connection can still be seen on Dish channel 9415 and online at TheConnectionShow.org. —Will Moredock


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