Column: TV shows a wake-up call for my old Kentucky home

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By Shannon Brock

A lot has been said about Eastern Kentucky over the past month or so, and I’ve taken notice. How could I not?

Eastern Kentucky is home to me. More specifically, the mountains of Pineville are home to me.

Pineville has been in the news on several occasions at the state level, but most of the national focus has been on Harlan and Hazard and other towns in between. In a sense, that’s still home to me. My daddy still drives to Harlan every day for work, and I’ve played many a softball game in Hazard.

While I’ve chosen to start my career and my family in Central Kentucky, my heart is still in those mountains.

Some say that recent television shows have depicted my home in a negative light. They say it only showed the bad side and is just perpetuating stereotypes. They’re afraid the nation is going to see it and put a black mark over the state as a whole.

I think that might be true, but I also think it might not be a bad thing.

Clearly, the stories shown on national television are not representative of our entire state. Heck, they’re not even representative of that entire region.

But they are representative of a part of it, and that’s the cold, hard truth.

Diane Sawyer didn’t drive into Kentucky and hire people to act out the part. She found them and told their stories.

It’s sad, but it’s true. It’s not the whole truth — of course there are plenty of success stories, too — but that doesn’t make it a lie.

While this special didn’t make Kentucky look good, it made the rest of the nation aware.

I’ve heard born and raised Kentuckians question whether those televised scenarios are even real. They think it can’t be that bad here. Well, they should think again.

It’s real. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen lives ruined because of bad choices. I’ve seen families struggling to get by. I’ve seen people destroyed by drugs.

If Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky were thriving and successful regions, I’d probably still be there. But I’m not, because I realized there’s no life there for me. There’s nothing appealing about making less money than what I already do, and that’s the only option back home.

But, strangely enough, television specials like those recently aired actually give me hope that it won’t always be that way.

Maybe someone needed to come in and tell the world how bad it is. Maybe that’s the only way we can get help. Maybe if we see it through another’s eyes, we’ll actually be able to help ourselves.

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you’ve got a problem. Our problems were admitted on national television, so maybe now we’ll finally be able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and make our world a better place.

E-mail Shannon Mason Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.