Some 50 years later, Bob Babbage still remembers what former Kentucky governor Louie B. Nunn once told him about KET, which had launched just a few years prior with aims of delivering educational content to all corners of the Commonwealth.
KET, he recalls Nunn saying, would “pull us all together.”
“He was referring, of course, to all the teaching that KET could do,” said Babbage, a former Kentucky Secretary of State and State Auditor. “But he never could have imagined in 1970 just how immensely valuable another aspect of KET would be to our state — its public affairs coverage. It really has become a focal point for so much of the information we share.”
Trey Grayson, another former Secretary of State, agreed. Grayson said he’d been laid low by the coronavirus for 10 days in July but was still able to stay on top of what was happening in Frankfort thanks to KET’s legislative coverage.
“It’s kind of amazing to think that — even in the middle of a pandemic — I could still do my job and watch the committee hearings at my convenience, all while stuck in bed battling COVID,” Greyson said. “It just shows what a tremendous resource KET is.”
Though Babbage, a Democrat, and Grayson, a Republican, hail from opposing political parties and often clash on their opinions, they’re both in agreement on the value of KET. The network, they say, serves as a “unifying force” for a Commonwealth sometimes driven apart by political, economic and geographic diversity. They point to KET’s public affairs coverage, through programs such as Kentucky Tonight, Comment on Kentucky and Legislative Update, saying that they offer a trusted outlet for statewide information.
KET’s programs, they said, go into depth, giving viewers a chance to take a “deep dive” on subjects — something all the more important as the state’s newspaper have downsized, closing bureaus and scaling back statewide coverage, Babbage said.
“KET makes it possible for us as a state to think together and consider the same issues,” Babbage added. “There’s a common consensus built through uncommon coverage. And in many respects, it’s more important now than ever before.”
And programs such as Kentucky Tonight bring to the table a wide range of knowledgeable guests — from lawmakers and policy advocates to educators and those working on the front lines — affording viewers a diversity of viewpoints that don’t just break conveniently along party lines.
“Not every issue falls into that kind of simple framework,” Grayson said. “A lot of times what you see on MSNBC or FOX is a head-to-head personality battle. But KET takes a different approach — everyone’s on equal footing and it’s more a battle of ideas.”