When South Carolina ETV closed its Beaufort offices six years ago because of budget cuts, then-ETV President Linda O’Bryon said “we hope that we’ll be able to find ways to come back in a different way.”
Well, they’ve come back in a different way now with one notable exception — the familiar face of Holly Bounds Jackson is roaming the studio halls again.
Those with fond memories of WJWJ anchors and reporters such as Juan Singleton, Rick Forschner, Suzanne Larson and Teresa Bruce know that if you dig far enough into the wayback machine, you’ll remember Fox News’ Bret Baier at WJWJ, before he got bigger britches.
But those paying close attention will also remember Holly Bounds Jackson got her start at the ETV station back in 2005. Now the director of operations at WJWJ, Jackson is in charge of producing local content and helping facilitate a USCB broadcasting course. She should be familiar to most local television news viewers as the longtime Lowcountry reporter and anchor for WSAV in Savannah. Before all that, however, she was here at public television studios on the TCL campus in Beaufort.
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The Bishopville, S.C., native had “never even been to Beaufort” when she got a phone call in March of 2005 asking her if she would like to join the 15-plus member team at WJWJ. Oddly enough, she wasn’t the station’s first choice. Despite being what she called the “fallback” candidate for the reporter opening, she soon proved herself worthy by asking — yes, asking — for the assignment to cover Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Within 24 hours of suggesting the assignment (“I’d never seen public television work so fast”), Jackson was on her way to an 11-day trip covering the damage and human heartbreak involved in the catastrophic storm. That experience helped confirm to her she wanted to keep her nose in breaking news stories.
When ETV began to shift away from local news and more into taped documentary features, Jackson made the move to WSAV. For seven years she worked her way up from reporter to anchor to host of her own daily show.
“In the news business, you always feel like you have to be moving up,” she said.
That move up included a literal move in 2013 to Tampa, Fla., to be part of the team at WFLA. Tampa, however, is not the Lowcountry, and the pace of life there, including what Jackson said was being “on call all the time,” was not conducive to family life.
In July of 2015, Jackson and her husband were vacationing on Fripp Island and attending the nightly Water Festival events. On a particularly mild evening with live music playing in the background and the breeze off the bay hitting them at the same time, the couple looked at each other as if to ask “why did we ever leave?”
By the end of the summer they were back in Beaufort County and Jackson was back at WSAV.
In a simple twist of fate, however, coverage of two more hurricanes — Matthew and Irma — would leave Jackson with a desire to get off the moving platform of the news cycle and settle into something simpler. Though the circle of life is sung about in Disney movies, it came to completion for Jackson when the higher-ups at ETV in Columbia went looking for a new director of operations for the Beaufort station late last year.
Jackson’s contract with WSAV was up and she knew she needed a change of pace. Her subsequent interview with ETV was “like a family reunion,” with many of her former employers still in their roles. Now, however, instead of a team of 15, it’s more like a showcase for the power of one aided by summer interns.
The studio itself has a lot of audio, visual and graphics equipment that needed dusting off and will soon receive even more engineering upgrades. Gone are the days of the artificial plants and brick facade sets, replaced completely by a green screen designed and built by USCB Professor of Communication Studies Dr. Caroline Sawyer.
Together, Sawyer and Jackson will help produce local content, beginning on September 13 with the airing of “By The River,” an interview show highlighting local authors. If you’re starved for regional stories and think there’s a gap to fill, more programs of that ilk are planned, including a documentary about the unique correctional facility in Allendale.
Jackson has the experience — and time — to really dig in to local stories worth telling.
“At the end of the day at WSAV, I could tell you what I did that day and have video proof,” she said. “I’m still itching to tell stories, but the deadlines have changed.”
What she lacks, as always with public television, is sufficient funding.
If you’re interested in what WJWJ looks like or is looking for, you’re in good, familiar hands with Jackson.
Like I said, fallback candidates can get overlooked.
But sometimes they return in force.