Expert on Appalachia Reacts To 20/20 Report

By: Jeff Allen Email
By: Jeff Allen Email

It continues to spark controversy and debate. Nearly 50% of you said on our web channel that the recent ABC 20/20 special was stereotypical.

One expert on Appalachia, featured in the ABC report, says the special could be good for Eastern Kentucky.

No matter what you thought about the recent 20/20 special, "A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains," one thing seems certain.

"It has certainly generated lots of debate, discussion, dialogue, that we haven't had in the mountains in some time," said Dr. Ron Eller.

Just today, appalachian expert Dr. Ron Eller, who was interviewed in the report, spoke to students at Union College about how he thinks we should be reacting to the ABC special.

"I hope young people can look beyond the stereotypes that are there, and begin to come together, and find new and creative ways to address the reality of the problems," said Dr. Eller.

"Although it did offend some, it did truly shed light on the Appalachia a lot of people aren't sure actually existed," said Camillia Helms.

Eller says the problems are not only found here in Eastern Kentucky, but in places around the country. He says we can not depend on others to fix them.

"Nobody else is going to fix 'em for us, we're going to have to work from within, and if this stuff bothers us, then we need to go out there and see what we can do to reach out," said Jonathan Hendrickson.

"As he said, history does repeat itself. Right now it's time to learn from the mistakes being done, and try to do something better about that," said Matthew Johnson.

Eller says whether they were truthful or not, if the stereotypes in the 20/20 special ultimately promote a new vision for Eastern Kentucky's future, then it will be worth it.

Union College is also where Shawn Grimm, one of the four young people featured in the special, is now going to school.

The 20/20 report is also the topic of our political blog on under Neil's Notebook in our blogs section.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by sydney Location: ky on Apr 2, 2009 at 09:50 AM
    i need to ask you a few questions on appalachia mt.for school.please emial me back if you can answer them thank you sydney
  • by William Location: seky on Mar 9, 2009 at 03:15 AM
    Retired Educator,How much money did you have to borrow you still paying student loans? al you are is a beter class of broke nothing to brag about.
  • by n Location: knott on Mar 7, 2009 at 05:54 AM
    Expert? there is no such thing///
  • by Melissa, Johnson County Kentucky on Mar 5, 2009 at 08:06 PM
    There are ways to make things better for EKY, like Building Codes & Inspectors, Slum Land Lord Laws. And changing the rules to allow more people to be able to get Government Housing. Do you know that if someone has anything on their record they can not get Gov Housing. To me that alone would help a lot of these children, because they do inspections on the housing unit, therefor these parents would not be allowed to live in filth. And the County's need Free Public Household Garbage Bins.(That costs a hole lot less than the county's having to clean up illegal dump sites) Most other places have ALL these things, why don't we? And why are the Social Workers not doing there job helping children? Like that little girl walking the street of Harlen they showed on the 20/20.Where are the Social Workers in ALL the cases they aired on the show? Why are they letting these parents raise their kids like that, going without everyday? To me the 20/20 report showed nothing but Child Neglete Cases.
  • by Living in poverty Location: SE KY on Mar 5, 2009 at 05:40 PM
    Obviously, the majortiy of the complaliners aren't very "intelligent" people, or they would realize that the report was on "poverty." It wasn't to address the worst situations, dead beats, or the rest of Appalachia. Therefore, those compaling about a show that presented what it intended to are living in your own world, where you probablly blame everyone else for your situation. I'm glad Shawn is going to Union, and that many of the other individuals featured have recieved assistance. Why not count blessings, instead of being so negative all the time? Furthermore, as long as the Native Americans are left to suffer on reservations, Appalachia will not be the number one poverty statistic (for those of you worried about who can feel sorry for someone else). Please, just do what you can to help anyone, and let God handle the judgement.
  • by Jack Location: Harlan on Mar 5, 2009 at 04:18 PM
    I really admire Dr. Eller. He is a gentleman and a meek scholar. Dr. Eller and others are experts on Appalachia and should be appreciated, not ridiculed. Thanks Dr. Eller I wish you the best in a thankless and difficult profession.
  • by Flatgap Hillbilly on Mar 5, 2009 at 02:34 PM
    Blame it on state law, blame it on what ever, but it is the Social Workers who are trying to teach parents HOW TO BE PARENTS, and when you do that you are failing the children. And here is another problem I see, Child Support! The Johnson County Child Support has the worst track record when it comes to collection for current and past due child support. Eastern Ky has alot of problems that need to be fixed, starting with our local government would be a good start.
  • by KYMom Location: Salyersville on Mar 5, 2009 at 07:20 AM
    To Witness to the Truth ~ If you are a social worker why not try to reform some of these people! Report their bad behavior and what they are doing to their children and have them taken away!
  • by Retired Educator Location: E. KY on Mar 5, 2009 at 06:13 AM
    I was raised in abject poverty in the 50's and 60's. I went hungry many days and had "secondhand" clothes to wear. I realized early on that work and school was my way up!! I worked very hard and got a bachelor's and a master's degree. You whiners need to go to work at whatever you can find and GO TO SCHOOL. Yes, it was hard and I had to work and borrow money to go, but it was worth it!! As a retired teacher, I am far from wealthy, but have had a life of rewarding work! Get real..go to work somewhere...No one is going to hand you anything free..that is of value. That you must work for. An Alien concept to some!
  • by Anonymous on Mar 5, 2009 at 06:06 AM
    The thing about it that was so upsetting is that PEOPLE CHOOSE to live this way and all the hard working people that do good in life were not even can't change ths CHOICES of people when they have not desire to change.
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