20/20 Highlights Children in Appalachia
ABC's 20/20 program on vulnerable children and families in Appalachia on Feb. 13, 2008, sparked praise, criticism and debate among journalists and residents of Appalachia.
The program followed ABC's Diane Sawyer on a trip to eastern Kentucky as she reported on poverty, drug abuse, and a dental condition called "Mountain Dew Mouth."
Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, was interviewed for the report and appeared in a follow up that aired on ABC on Feb. 20.
Here are some reactions from the media about the two shows:
"But I wondered why Sawyer didn’t explore the causes of the poverty and the cycle that kept these places poor. I wondered why she did not bring in a panel of experts to explain how this cycle can be broken and if people want to help, how they can find it. I wondered why she did not cover more of the coal scene in the area, such as ravaging the mountains by mountaintop removal, loss of jobs and the failure of coal operators to give back to the community." -- B. L. Dotson-Lewis, The Daily Yonder (published by the Center for Rural Strategies)
"But when journalism illuminates problems that raise questions of public policy, it's obliged to offer suggestions for solutions. That was the main flaw many journalists saw in the documentary, which was long on emotion and short on context." -- Al Cross,Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.
"(Sawyer) also needs to interview community organizers in the trenches who are not merely handing out charity, but bringing the affected eastern Kentucky communities together to address their problems of unemployment, drug abuse and hopelessness. Sawyer should start with Robert Gipe, an actor and theater producer in Harlan County, who has used the theater at the Appalachian Center at the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College as an arena for action on poverty and drug abuse. Gipe and his community have put together an amazing play, Finding Higher Ground, which should be featured on ABC-TV." -- Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post.
"The stories are a framework to illustrate problems in the community, from the rise in illegal prescription drug dealing to the widespread use of a soft drink that is rotting teeth. Children there face few options: work at Wal-Mart or fast food restaurants, dealing drugs or a life in the mines among them." -- David Bauder, Associated Press