Et Tu Diane Sawyer? Reader Response

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Here’s a Facebook sampling of Reader Responses to yesterday’s posting, announcing Diane Sawyer will update her 20/20 segment on Eastern Kentucky this Friday, including the “outpouring of support” for the subjects after it aired.

I’ve been trying to determine what negative stereotypes she will cover for part 2. Feuds?

Pikeville girl here. It isn’t the first time TV has aired stuff like this about E.KY. Muddy Gut many years was covered.

Great. The rest of the U.S. now thinks we’re a third-world country.

The most brilliant, talented people I know are from Eastern Kentucky.

I have mixed feelings. It is good to draw attention to those in need if the goal is to help with those needs. However, there is the huge risk of magnifying a stereotype.

The people are real, and they do live in the area but it is not a large area. We are talking about 50 miles up a dirt road where generations of families have lived and never left the countryside. When you are used to living that way your whole life, you know no different. I know people that match the stereotype but they are few and far between. I just think that it is sad to see it broadcast on national television because that stereotype is applied to you when people ask where you are from and you say Eastern Kentucky. Truth be known, almost every person I graduated high school with is now living in Lexington and have college degrees…doing very well for themselves.

And to think she’s from Louisville. Makes me remember when I was visiting in OHIO as a teenager and the local (redneck) teens were incredulous that I actually wore shoes. Unfortunately, I was too shy and mannerly to remind them that their parents and grandparents had emigrated from Kentucky. This was in the 50s. Sadly, it seems things are worse.

Rebecca is right. This wasn’t the first such “investigative” piece on Eastern Kentucky and I’m certain it won’t be the last. I remember being in grade school when the 48 Hours about Muddy Gut aired, and thinking to myself how offensive it was to the whole region. But there was Charles Kuralt before that, and who knows how many more before him. My theory is that whenever there’s a prolonged national downturn, the media turns the spotlight on the so-called ‘worst’ parts of Appalachia in an effort to make the rest of the country feel better about their own plight. It’s a matter of get in, get whatever footage is necessary to reinforce old unfounded stereotypes, and get out. Maybe throw up an ad for a charity or two at the end so you can feel that you’re ‘helping’ the poor backward mountain folk, rather than exploiting us for your own amusement. It’s disgusting to see this happening all the time to a region I’m proud to call home. On the other hand, I got to see my dorm on 20/20.

We’ve been covering this kind of thing for 20 years — am thinking of a line from a Belinda Mason play about Northerners coming down here “looking for poverty, like it had ever been lost.”

All of you are right, and right to be righteously indignant — when I moved back to Cali in the 90s to work for a very highly regarded tech company, my peers were astonished that I wore clothes, shoes, et al, and they would constantly interrupt me with ‘excuse me, what are you saying? I can’t understand you’ etc. I realized a LONG time ago that this kind of reporting has been going on since Jesus was a sailor (articles about dirt-eating hillbillies in LOOK in 1967 — I mean really). I also realized that it was a business — this kind of dreck consistently sells to other regions of the U.S. — even other regions of Kentucky. It sells ad time and generates $$$ for the peddlers. So Rebecca and Roger are right – and it won’t stop in our lifetime, I’m afraid. So…I’m already over it now, I guess.

Well, stereotypes aside, it looks like the show hasn’t had quite the negative effect some think. The Herald Leader ran an article about the show, and so far it looks like the families that were highlighted are getting a lot of assistance, and that’s what should happen. Pepsi is also offering quite a large sum of money and another dental lab truck to help treat the people in Appalachia afflicted with dental decay. Calls from across the U.S. have been coming in offering donations and assistance. Isn’t that what they want? I’m no fan of Diane Sawyer really but I watched the show and thought it was excellent, and really drove home the point that there is no other place in the U.S. with such a dense population of those living below the poverty line. Sure, not everyone in Eastern Kentucky lives in poverty, but the show wasn’t about them, it was about those who just can’t seem to get away from it, and find the same success as those who live just a little down the hill.

Is that what we want?
Is that meaningful to a sustainable Eastern Kentucky economy?

I remember when they wanted to secede from the Union in hopes of receiving third world status from the U.S. of A. because the robber barons continued to rob them blind and they couldn’t get any relief — and still haven’t.

No one ever climbed a mountain starting at the peak.

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