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Diane Sawyer examines poverty in Appalachia


Friday's “20/20” finds Diane Sawyer in starkly different environs than the cheerily lighted Times Square studio she occupies each morning as co-host of “Good Morning America.”

In her latest ABC prime-time special, which examines poverty in Appalachia, Sawyer is scrubbed free of the glamour of morning television. Donning blue jeans, her normally coiffed hair pulled back in a ponytail, the anchor visits the deepest recesses of the mountainous region: the hillside trailer homes, the weathered front porches, the dank tunnels of a coal mine.

For more of the story, read here.

(Photo courtesy ABC)

Comments () | Archives (56)

I am one of these poor people from Harlan, Ky. I sent 3 sons to college. Live in a home that would be about a million dollars if sitting in New York. We go on a winter vacation to another country each year. Go on a summer vacation each summer (Most here do) Not ALL people from the mountains have it bad. You pick someone who is the worst off and weird to show on your show. How about someone showing our Beautiful NEW High School, Our Huge ATV park, our beautiful lake and mountain views, the Coal Museum, Our Nice Civic center, Go on a walk on some of our nature hikes and see the Bears, Elk, deer ect. Talk with our wonderful troopers when most days there are no drug bust. You don't judge all of Harlan, Ky. By a few weird ones. We could go to your home town and find the garbage in the closet if you want to give the camera to me...NOW COME AND SHOW OU AWESOME SIDE. PS. Thanks for making it hard for my other son to go off to college and feel ashamed of where he came from...And as for Bill O. For someone who is suppose to be fair and balanced you sure are one sided in this case...A country girl can survive.. Mom in Harlan, Kentucky

Diane and Bill O. Do YOU want to help these kids that give your show the ratings? I will take any food, school supplies, toys and shoes and give them out on our land where we are building a church and youth center to do that very thing (We are calling our center "The Faith Center" (After a little 9 yr. girl Faith who died last year who was SOOOO giving and had a heart so big for other children)..I will be glad to give them out pastorearl@godisforyou.com

Umm, this ain't China. This is still the remnants of America.

What Diane Sawyer reported is indeed poverty.

Mr Jim Booth must not be to hard up for employee's . I have 7 applications in with his company and still no interview. I am a female and i have my mine foreman, m.e.t. and underground and surface certification. I have worked in and around the coal mines for 9yrs.So you tell me what is the problem?

I am a Northern girl who grew up in Ohio on Lake Erie. My parents are from Eastern Kentucky but left their home for factory jobs in the auto industry in the early 1960's. We spent many Summer vacations and holidays in the mountains and we still visit this area regularly. We want our children to understand the heritage of our people in Eastern Kentucky, but it is not what was portrayed on 20/20.

Our family in no way lived like the people who were shown on this TV show. We ate well balanced meals, received regular medical and dental care, and we are college educated. I have the best memories of the people of this region and for them to be portrayed like everyone is uneducated is heartbreaking.

I could have gone to Eastern Kentucky and filmed a much better documentary to objectively portray what the people of Eastern Kentucky are like in one week. They are proud, religious, hard working average citizens just like most of America.

This area has suffered from limited employment for many years but people have always found work and trades just as they do elsewhere in America if they are motivated. The younger generation has attended college and many of them have moved away from the area for employment. Some of them are coming back to live in this area to create jobs in their home towns.

Sure, there is poverty in this region just like any other town. I'm sure anyone could take you to their town and find one or two houses where uneducated people live. We could also find stories of drug addiction and incest in every State. This type of behavior is not the norm in this region, it is frowned upon just like in every other town.

The story line about the drug addiction is true in this region just as elsewhere in the country. Ms. Sawyer did a very good job of portraying this aspect of the story. This has upset the older people in this region for many years. Many doctors should be harshly reprimanded for prescribing narcotics for long term use.

The portrayal that everyone who lives in this area is ignorant, poor, and a drug addict is the furthest thing from the truth. If you ever visit this region, you will be pleasantly surprised to find beautiful scenery as well as beautiful people!

It seems to me being a life long resident of the state of GA, I can honestly say that there are some here in GA as bad off or even worse than the ones in Your docu. And also i have been to southeastern kentucky thousands of times, hunting and fishing ect. and not one time have i seen any of this. Beautiful mountains and lakes and extremely nice folks there. Anyway here is my question, It took you and your crew 2 years to put this together, yet to me it only focuses on 4 families and only the negatives, which in my opinion really makes the entirity of southeastern kentucky look really bad. Was this what you and your crew set out to do? If indeed it was your intention...........it was pointless and wrong to target a focal point of negativity on an entire county for this mistakes or bad judgement of a few don't you think?

Heck come to GA and get the real deal of "POOR" i mean we have illegal immigrants living 5 families per-trailer. Big Companies working them constantly as for the cheap labor. Then the mexicans send all their monies back home to mexico and literally have nothing to live on !

So Mrs. Sawyer if you really want poor bring it to GA...................!

I only saw the last portion of the program, but was offended by how we are exploited in southeastern Kentucky. My father worked in the coal industry my entire life, as well as my father in law. My dad drove a coal truck and my father in law a miner. No, we are not uneducated hillbillies, we are in fact a close nit community in many ways. My dad, was unable to finish high school, but worked and put 3 daughters through college. My mother graduated from high school. Both parents realized their daughters needed more than they had. We were raised in a small 2 bedroom home. Small, but always clean and nice. I am a registered nurse and teacher with a masters degree, one of my sisters has a degree in business and works for the court system in our county and my youngest sister has her degree in accounting and works for a credit union sofeware company. We came from good hard working, christian families in southern Kentucky. We all have nice homes and families. I have built 2 new homes myself. None of the stuff portrayed in the program. Yes, we do have poor communities ( like anywhere else in the United States) and very few good paying jobs, but we need help increasing industry in Kentucky. This would make the lives of our young people much eaiser.

This was a wonderful insight to poverty right here in the USA. Much more enlightening and informative for us viewers than the usual 48 hour mystery.

I live in Nashville, TN --- not too far from this beautiful but poverty stricken area. For those of you that would like to help, I have been trying to get in contact w/ Erica's family. I have contacted various people I have researched on my own. So far only one has responded back. Here was his response and suggestions:
"CAP has been working with the Erica's family as well as the other families mentioned directly to make sure their immediate needs are met. We are currently trying to get the childrens'sizes and have several folks interested in sending clothes (even gently used), shoes, and other basic clothing needs. The families could also use personal care items such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste and other items that basic necessities but are sometimes out of reach for a family on a limited income. You can also send non-perishable food items, or donate money that will be used to purchase perishable food items such as milk, bread and other nutritious food items.

Unfortunately, it is against our policy and experience to keep the direct contact between donor and recepitent an arms-length apart as even the best of intentions can do much more harm than good. However, I will forward you request to our program that is directly involved with helping Erica. As you know, after this fleeting 15 minites of (fame?), we will need individuals like you who are willing to be in it with Erica (and the others) for the long run. I do hope you will be because I know Erica will need help as she is being "lost" in the donations going to others.

If you are interested in making a donation of items or money you can do that either through our website www.christianapp.org, by credit card over the phone at 866-270-4227 or by mail Christian Appalachian Project - 2610 Palumbo Dr. - Lexington, KY 40509. This gift is tax deductible as Christian Appalachian Project is a 501-C-3 organization as recognized by the IRS. You can restrict your gift to a specific child when making your donation and 100% of your donation will go directly to supporting this family’s efforts. We will also forward any donation you direct to the Homecoming church as you wish.

Please keep Jeremy, Erica, Courtney, Shawn, CAP and all of the Appalachian children we serve in your prayers and know that each day we gather in prayer to thank God for the folks like you who are willing to reach out a hand to help.

If you have any questions please email or give me a call.

God Bless,

Garry H. Vickers, Director
Christian Appalachian Project
2610 Palumbo Drive
Lexington, KY 40509

I myself feel that the poverty stricken area is made to seem worse off then other places i the USA. I know of places even here Maine that have it that bad. What needs to be done cannot be done with out the help of proper funding and the economy is not going to let these things happen. The children liveing with these parents on drugs need to show there parents themselves what they are doing to them. I don't want to come off as a person who dosent care but ive spent the past three years raising money for orginizations to halp Applachia and i still dont see how it is helping the people need to make decisions and it rests on there shoulders.

Are you really serious. Your complaint is that they eat most of the time, sometimes as much as two times a day. What is wrong with you people. No child should go hungry, not here in the United States or abroard. Yes there are worse places. Yes there are children in other countries who don't have a refrigerator or a mattress to sleep on. But these are our children. They live in neighboring counties or states, and they need our help. Whether it be books, or clothes, or food, don't you think we should help when we can? Are you all so miserable with your own lives that you don't care about those around you? And for the comment about the child with the sippy cup filled with soda, what makes that child any better off than the child in a third world country drinking contaminated water. Giving soda to infants and children can cause tooth decay and loss, diabetes, growth delays, obesity....the list goes on. Those children aren't making that choice. Wake up. We have an epidemic in this country and it won't be solved by those of you who take away from those who need help by belittling their need. You should take a real look at your lives and ask yourself why it's so important to take away from others who have so little.

What is wrong with all of you people? Of course these children are poor! Do you really think the clothing they were wearing was purchased by the families? Almost everything is donated to these families. Some don't even have running water and electricity if you watch the Feed the Children shows. Some don't even go to school. Has anyone ever visited families living in apt houses in the Bronx? Welcome to poverty! Even in the 60's it was terrible. There are pockets in this country where people just don't have what many in the bigger cities do. So stop insisting these people are NOT poor! It's awful to think that way.

And believe me, with the economy tanking, and the fact that we have to borrow our money from CHINA, our children and grandchildren will have to pay this debt back for centuries. I'm horrified by the way some Americans think!

Were drinking it right now!!! It'e good but we have realized that we need to take a healthier choice and drink water.

I live in Louisville and your story about poverty in the mountains of Kentucky killed me emotionally. To see the way some people have to live in MY OWN STATE it broke my heart. Watching the show, looking at the neighborhoods where these kids live, seeing those conditions, it looks like some 3rd world country. I thought of when Bobby Kennedy waged the war on poverty. There's a famous photograph of him walking out of a home he had visited in the very same region you reported on. The image is of Kennedy overcome with grief, his hands cover his face, and he weeps. This is how I felt when I saw your coverage on my state. My heart broke. I was glad to see the follow-up episode and to know that something is being done to help those people in my area who so urgently need it. It really puts things into perspective with the economy in the dumps. We all have had hard times but there's always someone, or some poor family who has it worse. I suppose in this case it was a blessing and a curse that those suffering were in our own backyard.

Yes there are alot of poor people in other countries, but these are kids right here in our back yards. Maybe you people who don't think this is poverty oughta tuck your little one into bed tonight without his or her "THIRD" meal of the day or even the milk and cookies. Do it every night for a week and see what their reaction is.

Appalachia is simply one poverty stricken region in America. Most of rural America is destitute.

My small Missouri town exists below the national poverty line. ALL of us. Jobs are limited to factory positions 25 miles away; the closest large city is a 45 minute drive. Commutes in winter conditions are nigh impossible and those of us with vehicles rack up mileage at triple & quadruple the rate of city dwellers. Resale value? HA. Folks here cannot even afford to take advantage of the Cash4Clunkers program.

Normally, hunting and gardening would take up the slack left by chronic underemployment, but now that ammunition is so scarce many people will not be able to hunt this season. I doubt the recipients of approximately $20 billion in foreign aid would give up any to help us.

I am fed up with politicians and celebrities doing their best to rehabilitate entire continents when so many of our own are homeless, hungry and destitute. Just for a moment, imagine the changes we could implement if that money was spent on America and its citizens.

Oprah, Diane .. are you listening?

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