E. Ky. group responds to New York Times article asking, 'What's wrong with Eastern Kentucky?'

09/29/2014 01:52 PM

“What’s the matter with Eastern Kentucky?” — that’s the headline staring back at the nation in June from the New York Times. While residents of Appalachia have seen the story written before it didn’t sting any less, and this time they decided to strike back with their own PR campaign.

The group of Eastern Kentuckians launched an initiative aimed at looking past the problems and towards the progress of the area’s entrepreneurs in an effort to tell the story national newspapers and magazines often overlook.

Johnathan Gay, the director of the Kentucky Innovation Network at Morehead State University, wanted to show the “story of hope” and “progress” through the eyes of six entrepreneurs from each of the six counties in Eastern Kentucky (Breathitt, Clay, Jackson, Lee, Leslie and Magoffin) the Times selected as the “hardest place to live in the United States. Statistically speaking.”

Grayson Smith of Magoffin County, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and occasional political consultant, is one of the entrepreneurs highlighted by the initiative.

Smith described reading the Times article as “disheartening” and said the data the Times used is flawed. “How do you measure quality of life,” Smith said, arguing he’s never seen anyone in his area homeless.

“I don’t know of anyone going hungry. If you see someone hitchhiking they’re going to get picked up within 20 minutes of the time they’re out there,” Smith said.

Gay said there are positives from the region and that the residents there need to tell their stories — or have the stories told for them.

“I think the positives are family. Sense of place — there’s a commitment to the region that you see in Eastern Kentucky that I don’t think you see in other places,” Gay said.


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