Columbia Matters for producer of award-winning cable TV show

Lifelong Columbia resident Mary Weeks can sum up in one simple two-word phrase what her hometown means to her.

Columbia Matters.

Heard that before?

It's also the name of the Columbia Association's award-winning public access television program that Weeks has produced for the past six years.

Weeks, whose mother moved to Columbia shortly after it was founded in the early 1970s, said she takes great personal and professional pride in producing a show that shares all her hometown has to offer.

A graduate of Wilde Lake High School and Howard Community College, Weeks said she's tried living in other places: She spent less than a year in Baltimore and one semester as an undergraduate in North Carolina. But no matter how she tried, her true home kept calling her back.

"I moved away twice, but I always came back," Weeks said. "Columbia really spoils you, everything is so convenient and clean. ... I feel like the lakefront is my second home."

Clearly Weeks' passion and commitment for Columbia shows through in her work: "Columbia Matters" — a half-hour, magazine-style, public access program designed to educate and inform residents through studio guests and scripted segments — was recognized last year by the Telly Awards, national awards that honor outstanding local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs.

Last year, "Columbia Matters" won two bronze Telly Awards, bringing its total tally to 15.

Weeks said the key to the show's success is the wealth of information it offers viewers.

"When I do a show, and when I write a script, I watch it from the viewers' eyes and make sure I ask myself, 'Did I did get all the information?'," Weeks said.

Although the show has enjoyed success since it premiered in 2004, that doesn't mean Weeks and her team are settling in.

In fact, Weeks said, "Columbia Matters" is in for a complete overhaul, as she plans to move away from the traditional seven-segment format in favor of a documentary style.

"I'm looking to tell more deeper stories and CA initiatives, more like a movie style and documentary," Weeks said. "There will be less interviews, but it will still be a well-rounded show for everyone, it just won't be as segmented."

Weeks said the new format will allow her to better tell human interest stories, like that of her inspirational single mother, Martha Jones, who raised a family while working on the lakefront as a Rouse Company employee seven days a week.

"My mother really installed hard work in me," Weeks said. "She was a single mother, and if it wasn't for the vision of James Rouse, she probably wouldn't have been able to live out here."

Now Weeks, a single mother herself, is grateful that she can raise her son, Jalen, 11, in a place like Columbia.

"To be able to grow up in this community and raise my son here is a true blessing," Weeks said. "It's hard to put into words, just being here. There is no place I would rather live than in Columbia."

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