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Stokes turns the community ‘Inside Out’ for new TV show

Diane DeVaughn Stokes has gone inside out with her new TV show, sending her in new directions for interviews across Horry and Georgetown counties.

HTC Cable Channel 4 airs her hourlong, monthly show, “Inside Out,” at 8 a.m., noon and 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Stokes said after the end of her “Southern Style” cable access show in December 2008 on Time Warner Cable, that Mike Hagg, HTC’s chief executive officer and a former production colleague, encouraged her to create a new program for HTC. They spent a year plotting the launch of “Inside Out.”

She recounted seeking “something that takes me out of the studio” because “Southern Style” was taped and aired live from the studio for all of its 23 years.

“I thought it’d be wonderful to feature the variety of the community,” Stokes said last week, a day before filming two segments in North Myrtle Beach for the September episode of “Inside Out.” She had convinced herself that she “could do something totally different.”

Stokes called agriculture “so important to this community” and that “people want to see where their food comes from.”

So every episode will include a visit to a farm and will showcase a local chef, “to teach us something we do in our own kitchens.”

Reminding everyone to use S.C.-grown agriculture, Stokes hopes both aforementioned monthly features complement each other.

Besides a two-minute timeout for a video presentation every month, with just sights and no interviews, Stokes said “Off the Wall” parts will interact on the road with folks as “something wild and crazy.”

Inside out ... and digging

To name the show, Stokes said HTC officials hoped topics wouldn’t concentrate too east or west of the Intracoastal Waterway, but rather, “come right down the middle.”

“I wanted to cover the community ‘inside out,’ ” Stokes said, “into the farms and rural areas, and go digging for stories that nobody does, such as covering a new beekeepers’ association.”

Stokes said filming parts of each show at a more spread-out pace gives her a breather from having to tape five, hourlong shows every Monday to air that week, as the final decade of “Southern Style” entailed.

She said doing “Southern Style” let her see “the importance of listening” when interviewing and to reciprocate with genuine excitement so the guest and listener each benefit.

“If you’re busy worrying about the next question,” Stokes said, “you’re not listening to the guest, and you might miss something that was already answered.”

Thinking back to the 1970s and her time at Francis Marion University in Florence, “when women we’re getting into television,” Stokes said, “I never set out to have a television career; I set out to have a journalism career.”

Becoming a student spokesperson for the university to the media Stokes’ first experience in communicating with local TV, radio and newspaper personnel.

“I was never nervous about it,” she said, grateful she moved on to a live radio show with her mentor, Doug Williams, and positions at WBTW-TV 13 and WPDE-TV 15.

Going “Inside Out” this year, “this is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Stokes said, “showing the beauty of what Horry and Georgetown counties have to offer.”

For the August show, which debuts Wednesday, Stokes said viewers will meet an engineer who penned a book about Murrells Inlet; visit the S.C. Maritime Museum in Georgetown; hit the field with an Aynor farmer who discusses a new, Texas-grown corn in his crop and the “plasticulture” he uses to achieve three harvests a year; step in bark parks for the “dog days of summer”; learn from Horry County emergency management about “knowing your zone” in case of a hurricane evacuation; taste some chicken bog and peach cobbler by a soul-food chef; take a turn on turtle patrol with a longtime interpretive ranger from Myrtle Beach State Park; and after stopping happenstance along a Conway road, learn tips from an Aynor tree service about caring for live oaks.

Being on location, and not covering “dated events,” makes another key difference in this new series for Stokes, who said each program can have a longer shelf life, and remain enlightening all month long.

Partners again

Stokes said the hourlong hosting of her radio show, “Diane at Six,” airing at 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays in a simulcast on WEZV-FM 105.9 and WGTN-FM 100.7, gives her another sidelight to the TV show, as does owning Stages Video Productions in Myrtle Beach with her video-camera-shooting husband, Chuck Stokes.

The Stokeses first worked together at WPDE in Florence in 1989, before they even dated, then on a weekly show at WBTW in Myrtle Beach, so pairing up on “Inside Out” “is such a joy,” Diane Stokes said.

“He’s as much fun on location as [anyone] I’ve ever worked with,” she said.

Chuck Stokes said although “Southern Style” was his wife’s solo project, “we still worked together on videos, productions and TV commercials,” so on “Inside Out,” he finds assisting her new era on TV as “an exciting challenge” and a new partnership within a greater union they have shared for 28 years as family. He said they have come “full circle” since they started, as local TV branched out with the growth in Myrtle Beach, and that the industry has changed through the decades.

“It really is a fun thing for me,” Chuck Stokes said, “and something different for me to do, because it’s not scripted, as in a 30-second TV commercial.”

His better half voiced feeling “so blessed” with this next chapter in her career, and having both of their mothers in town and three cats keeping their home extra warm. Expressing why she remains so bubbly and genuinely happy, Diane Stokes declared, “I am wired from the time I get up.”

Stokes said learning about the array of subjects from all the people covered on camera, she finds the best interview, even touching on tougher, sadder subjects, “sometimes comes from asking honest questions, because if you know too much about the topic, you don’t do as good an interview. ...

“The best interviews are those for which I ask the best questions that come from the heart.”