If you were wondering why T.J. Holmes gave up his CNN post to head over to BET, the answer will be revealed on October 1 at 11 p.m.
Holmes will debut his new show “Don’t Sleep” a nighttime talk and news show that will put him directly against local news programming around the country. Airing weeknights from Monday through Thursday, “Don’t Sleep” aims to be a news program for a market often underserved by mainstream news – African-Americans. Despite BET’s uneven history with news programming with former news honchos Ed Gordon and Tavis Smiley, both departing the network after successful news show, they’re looking to Holmes to try it again. This time BET is bringing a stellar support staff to the table. The show is being co-produced by Madeline Smithberg, an Emmy and Peabody Award winning producer who co-created and ran “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”
Social media will be a big part of “Don’t Sleep.” You can join the conversation on Twitter by using the hash tag #BETDontSleep and follow the show @BETDontSleep. Expect a mix of content that will include special guests, debates, and a unique look at newsmakers in the African-American community, something that Holmes says he’s looking forward to doing.
“I had been at CNN 5 years doing that Saturday and Sunday morning show,” Holmes said. “I had had opportunities over the years to go other places so if I wanted to leave, I could have just left. I was waiting on the right opportunity and the right opportunity came along. The right opportunity was one where I was able to speak directly to my community and do something that I wasn’t able to do at CNN. Those news networks are set up differently and they have a different purpose. Now I’m setting up a show to focus in, to hone in and to speak on topics and to speak to a community that doesn’t have that right now, at least on TV. There’s talk radio, you can get it online, but there’s no place else you see these conversations being had. And that was important to me.”
A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Holmes, 35, is a native Arkansan who started his broadcast career in Joplin, Missouri. He eventually returned home to Arkansas as a weekend reporter and anchor until he moved on to San Francisco’s NBC affiliate. At NBC, he covered the 2004 Summer Olympics, the trial of Scott Peterson, who was eventually convicted of the double murder of his pregnant wife, Laci and their unborn child. Holmes also covered the recall of the California governor in 2003. He was the weekend anchor at CNN, covering tragedies like the Virginia Tech campus shootings and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
He was already a popular talent on CNN, but Holmes expects to show more of his own personality on “Don’t Sleep.”
“So much of what the show is going to be is based around my credibility and my personality,” Holmes said. “I got to be TJ about 20% of the time when I was at CNN. The rest of the time, because of the news we’re covering, you have to play the straight news guy. So now I get to flip that and get to be 80% T.J. and maybe you’ll see 20% of the hard news guy come out. The idea, always at the end of the day, is to inform people. If we do that in an entertaining way, so be it. The highlight of the show is black excellence, black love, the black entrepreneurial spirit; things you won’t see anywhere else. Because the shows that are depicting us, anywhere on TV, are not always depicting us in the ways that I know us and not always in the best light. Now we have a way to combat that.”