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‘Don’t Sleep’ on T.J. Holmes
New addition to BET lineup opens up about his show
Published Thursday, September 20, 2012 8:47 am
by Michaela L. Duckett


After nearly a year of preparation, T.J. Holmes is set to debut his new late-night talk show “Don’t Sleep” on BET on Oct. 1 at 11 p.m.

Former CNN anchor T.J. Holmes has a new program, “Don’t Sleep,” on BET. The program debuts Oct. 1 at 11 p.m.

The former CNN weekend anchor says he’s excited but also nervous about his new show. When he announced last year that he was leaving CNN for BET, many questioned why a reputable journalist would make such a move. In an interview with The Post, Holmes gave his reasons for leaving CNN and explained why his new show is needed. The following Q&A is an excerpt from that interview:

Q: You spent five years with CNN. What is the most valuable lesson that you learned from that experience?

A: I learned so much about the reach and the power of the airwaves and that everybody out there that is writing in and tweeting is not just a bunch of nuts who are giving you a hard time. I learned not to ignore. I learned to pay attention to everybody, and that’s difficult to do. But we have an awesome power and responsibility to be able to get on the air day in and day out and have a voice. I have voice more so now than ever with this new show. I’m able to say things and not just be a part of the national conversation, but to lead and drive that conversation.

Q: We have to ask the obvious question that is on a lot of people’s minds. What made you decide to leave CNN for BET?

A: It was two separate decisions, but people view it as one over the other or that I chose BET over CNN. That’s the wrong way to look at it. I had been at CNN for five years doing the Saturday and Sunday morning show so I felt like I had gotten everything that I could get out of CNN. In looking at the landscape there and what the possibilities might be down the road, I was ready for something new.

I’ve had opportunities over the years to do different things, but those opportunities didn’t feel right. When this opportunity came along to do this type of show in certainly a different time slot during the week and speak directly to my community, that was the right opportunity. These opportunities don’t come along that often, as we all know, in the black community.

Q: What about this opportunity appealed most to you?

A: You turn on the TV right now, and you don’t see any shows that are speaking directly to the black community. So this was the right time and the right place, given BET and, frankly, its reach. BET has a huge reach and audience. So there is no better place to get this type of show and this type of message out. You put all those things together and it became to some degree an obvious choice for me.

Q: What is the message that you want to get out to the black community through your new show?

A: The answer is really in the title, “Don’t Sleep.” It essentially means wake up.

Q: What are three of the most pressing issues that you feel the black community should not sleep on?

I would definitely say education… We are losing a generation of black men and nobody seems to care. We absolutely have a crisis going on that nobody is treating like a crisis. That is a problem. This horn needs to be sounded often. I’m not saying that I have the solutions to these problems, but at least … It’s a start for us to highlight that problem day in and day out.

Number two I would say are these voter ID laws. You hear so much about them, but this has the potential right now to have an impact. We are going to launch a month before the election, so certainly we’re going to be hot and heavy on politics. We can get upset all we want, and plenty people are. They are fighting it in the courts. But so much of what we have to do is educate the audience on what to do in case the court doesn’t come down on your side. You need to be ready.

Another issue, for me at least, is the whole idea of civic involvement, civic engagement and discourse. It drives me crazy how we treat each other in this country. I blame media, and I blame politicians for this – that we can’t disagree without being disagreeable. You hear that all the time as a cliché, but it’s so true in how we treat each other… We are absolutely going to take on a lot of tough and controversial topics, but so much of what I want to do is show adults disagreeing without being disrespectful to change the tone of so much of the conversation that’s going on in this country right now. That is a huge part of what I’d like to do with the show as well.

Q: It’s time for the fall TV season to roll out so what will you be watching?

A: (Laughs) That’s a good question. I only watch a few things on TV. I watch sports. I watch news, and I watch animated shows. I’m watching “Family Guy,” “The Cleveland Show” and “Boondocks.” That’s pretty much it. Every once in a while, I will get hooked on a show, like I got hooked on “Walking Dead” on AMC last year. I just couldn’t miss that show, but those only come around ever so often. I’m not a big TV show buff.



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