Making a Difference:
KET's Kentucky Life


There's a big audience out there. And thanks to KET, we are reaching them.

Joyce Bender

Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission

Water splashes noisily as it drops 60 feet straight down at Elk Lick Falls, a rarely seen waterfall at the center of Floracliff Nature Sanctuary, tucked away close to the Kentucky River palisades in Fayette County.

A secluded place, its paths are rarely trodden, by design. It stands as an example of what the area was like before human settlement—and preserves the biodiversity which reigned unfettered in Kentucky's prehistory days.

It's just the type of place that the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission is helping to preserve. And people know about it—and support its preservation—thanks in large part to the KET magazine series Kentucky Life.

"We tend to be all scientific, but Kentucky Life levels it out and presents the information so that it is just plain and simple and people can understand it," said Joyce Bender, who has managed these nature preserves for the past 25 years.

"In six or eight minutes, this wonderful message gets across."

Kentucky Life, which premiered on KET in 1995, routinely features stories about Kentucky's natural areas. The series was designed specifically to include segments showcasing the natural beauty of Kentucky—a feature which viewers repeatedly request. And in this process a happy marriage of entertainment, education, and preservation is created.

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"I have something to say, but KET sees something else—and we blend it into this beautiful little harmony that comes out," she said. "I get to explain the importance of these natural places, and KET makes sure that the citizens understand it in a context that is beyond my ability to convey. KET knows how to make that happen. It's such a great blending of abilities."

Bender, who has appeared in numerous Kentucky Life segments featuring the state's natural areas (including the very popular Kentucky's Last Great Places), developed her love of the outdoors as a teenager camping with her brother in the wilds of Pennsylvania. She credits her agency's close relationship with KET—and specifically Kentucky Life—with fostering an understanding of the importance of natural preservation among the popular program's viewers.

"Everyone, from every walk of life, watches KET and Kentucky Life," she said. "I always thought, from talking with friends, that it was their parents who watched those programs. But I talk to young people, middle-aged people, and the guy down at the garage—there's a big audience out there. And thanks to KET, we are reaching them."

When Bender joined the Commission's staff, just 16 nature preserves had been designated—but today, that number has bloomed to 60. Through Kentucky Life, viewers have come to understand important truths—like a swamp, such as the one at Terrapin Lake Nature Preserve, is not a fearsome place full of snakes and mosquitos but an important and wonderful place worthy of preservation.

"We bring that swamp to the public by having the biologist who is with us collect all these great fish, all these beautiful colored animals that you would never know were in the water. These fish, when they have their breeding colors, are just as beautiful as birds," she said.

"There's magic in there. And the way to turn someone's opinion to something more positive is to help them understand it. With KET, we can say, 'It might look foreboding, but look what's in there.' It lifts the curtain."