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Comment on Kentucky - change can be fun

2/28/2014 - BREAKING NEWS! Comment will have a woman guest, Miranda Combs of WKYT Lexington, on the show tonight.

Comment on Kentucky began back in 1974. That’s the same year that “Little House on the Prairie” and “Happy Days” premiered. The same year that “Lucy” the oldest human skeleton was discovered. The year the Rubik’s Cube was invented by Ernst Rubik.

In short, a very long time ago.

The longest running public affairs program airs live on Friday evenings on Kentucky Educational Television and re-airs on Sunday morning. It has been a mainstay for the politically obsessed for forty years.

The show hasn’t changed its format by much since its creation. It remains much the same as when Al Smith started with it in November 1974. Smith brought together a group of journalists from the Commonwealth’s mainstream media for a recap of the week’s breaking news. The conversation ranged from politics to sports to reminiscences of Smith’s time as a newspaperman.

The native of Russelville served as host for thirty three years. Smith was a gentle shepherd on the air. He led straying conversations back to the point. The show would end with a short monologue by the host. Smith was a former member of the Appalachian Regional Commission who championed Appalachia and New Deal ideals throughout his career.

Ferrell Wellman, former WAVE TV-Louisville journalist and an EKU college professor took over as host in 2008. His first appearance on Comment was in 1978. Wellman announced his retirement from the program last week. Bill Bryant of WKYT Lexington will serve as interim host.

Comment on Kentucky is forty years old.

We suggest that it’s time the show had a mid-life crisis. Buy that red sports car. Get a tattoo. Learn to dance. Do something crazy. Risky.

How about this? Do something really out of the Comment comfort zone. Bring in a woman or a minority - or both - to host the show.

After all these years, the chummy camaraderie of Comment guests is beginning to smell like the locker room after a high school football game. The overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly white guests are pals. Nobody steps on anybody’s story. It’s a polite show and tell of what they have seen over the week.

The show has the snap of Friday afternoon fourth grade book report readings. Where once Al Smith brought a heartfelt story or an exhortation to the audience, the show in recent years has become a self satisfied cocktail party sans cocktails.

With Wellman’s retirement, the time is right for a change. Much is going on in Kentucky. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth are making big waves. There are scandals to be discovered, explored, unmasked.

There are new reporters. There are not male reporters. There are not white reporters. Every once in awhile Comment on Kentucky has one on the show. One of the most memorable for me was the one show Merlene Davis of the Lexington Herald appeared on. Davis was not given the old boy script and did not play by the rules. It was great. She never was seen again.

I shall be honest. One of our televisions will be tuned to Comment on Kentucky as long as it airs. My husband feels obligated to watch the show each week. While he fears missing something, he never does. But he keeps watching.

So Comment on Kentucky on its present course will have an audience of one.

The one will not be me.

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