It's sad to see a local institution go away, particularly one that was as personal as the educational television station in Beaufort, WJWJ-TV.
For about 40 years, its lean staff scrambled to bring personal, local programming into living rooms and classrooms throughout Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties.
It was set up to serve an area of the state without commercial providers. It took its call letters from a supporter who helped it become a reality, the powerful late state Sen. James Waddell Jr. of Beaufort.
It has now closed shop due to budget reductions at South Carolina ETV. Its signals for educational programming will still go out to consumers on both television and radio. But its last two employees are gone, and the studio is dark.
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SCETV must be good stewards of the money it gets from the government and private donors. That we can understand and appreciate.
And many things more than the budget are different today. Hilton Head Island has a commercial station producing local programming. Sun City Hilton Head has a television station. Bluffton had a local station for a while. The Beaufort County government has a station, sending out via cable public meetings of the County Council and school board. It offers a show on local nature.
For all practical purposes, the community's tie to WJWJ ended in 2007 when it shut down the news department.
Not many public television stations ever tried to do local news, and the effort in Beaufort was commendable even though the private sector offered several news outlets.
WJWJ had a 30-minute news show every weeknight, with its cameras bringing schools, parades, festivals, dedications, celebrities, athletes and community personalities and milestones into the living rooms of those who could tune in Channel 16.
It also offered call-in programs. The public could anonymously fire questions at elected leaders, and county and school district administrators. It offered candidate forums. It had a program for teens -- including dancing to a deejay in the studio on Ribaut Road -- called "High School Graffiti." Clemson Extension Service agents shared information on agriculture and cooking. There were fishing updates, of course. And it even had a variety show called "Lowcountry Alive," hosted by Hilton Head radio deejay Phil McLean and Beaufort music legend Bill Barnwell.
Lesser known was programming produced for early-childhood educators nationally, and for local governments, such as economic development agencies.
Its lasting legacy will be its documentaries, highlighted by the story of the Gullah people called, "God's Gonna Trouble the Waters." Other documentary topics included the salt marsh, tides, Penn Center, the Parris Island band and the Hunting Island lighthouse.
The station's archives should be considered golden, and they should be protected and saved in a way that benefits people well into the future as they search to unravel the remarkable story of the Lowcountry.
And before the studio is boarded up and its equipment shipped out, the community should examine whether there is a new and different way to use those resources to do what the station did best -- connect people and help them understand their home.