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Talking Appalachia with Bob Edwards

by Beth Newberry

When Graham Shelby, writer and radio journalist, interviewed radio legend  and Kentucky-native Bob Edwards for Kentucky Public Radio about his memoir, A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio, and the two ventured into a conversation about regionalism, identity and stereotypes as well. “[Appalachia’s] the throw away zone of America,” says Edwards. “It’s owned by out-of-state interests, mostly energy companies and other corporate interests, who take from eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.” Listen to the radio segment.

Shelby has a deep-rooted heritage  in southeastern Kentucky and spent his early childhood in Hazard, Ky. He spent most of his childhood and youth in Lexington, Ky., the state’s second-largest city and a western outpost for many Apps leaving the state’s mountains to pursue jobs and higher education.  He currently lives in Louisville with his wife and three sons.

Shelby answered a couple of questions about his interview with Edwards for The HillVille:

Q: You asked Bob Edwards some pointed questions about perceptions of Appalachia and Kentucky, why did you decide to ask him those questions?

A: I’d noticed over the years that Bob did a fair amount of cheer leading for Kentucky, which he didn’t have to do, so I wanted to see how deep that went with him. I was thrilled to find out that it went very deep.

Q: How does your identity as an Appalachian influence you in your reporting?

A: So many people who consider themselves open minded and open hearted think nothing of making dehumanizing comments about Appalachia and Appalachians. If stereotyping people based on their demographic is wrong, then it’s wrong. Equivocation on that is hypocritical and that’s something I try to keep in mind as a journalist and a writer.

Originally broadcast on WFPL in Louisville, Ky., visit WKMS Public Radio to hear a section of Shelby’s interview with Edwards about Kentucky and Appalachia. WFPL also has this additional interview between Shelby and Edwards.

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