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Alice Allison Dunnigan - Pioneering Journalist

Alice Allison Dunnigan - Pioneering Journalist

Alice Allison Dunnigan - Pioneering Journalist

Renee Shaw and her guests remember the life of journalist, civil rights activist, and author Alice Allison Dunnigan, the first accredited African-American female correspondent to cover the White House, and the first black female member of the Senate and House of Representatives press galleries. Alice was born in Russellville, Kentucky, in 1906.
S15 E9 Length 26:37 Premiere: 10.27.19

Remembering Pioneering Journalist Alice Allison Dunnigan

White House correspondents often witness history, but on a summer afternoon in 1947 it was a journalist in the Oval Office who made history.

“This is the big day. It is the day that I go see the President of the United States,” recalled Alice Dunnigan, as she prepared to attend her a press briefing with President Harry Truman. She was the first African-American woman granted credentials to cover the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court. The journalism skills she brought to the job had been sharpened since she was a child.

“It is indeed a long way from that red clay hill in rural Logan County, Ky., to the hallowed halls of this imposing structure,” Dunnigan wrote in her memoir. “It is a giant step from the ramshackle, unpainted, one-room school house… to the great magnificent mansion known as the White House.”

KET’s Connections explored Dunnigan’s journey from Russellville to Washington to journalism history.

Kentucky Roots and Bigger Ambitions

Dunnigan was born in 1906 to a sharecropper father and a mother who took in laundry. As a teenager attending the local segregated school, Dunnigan began writing short reports for the black newspaper in Owensboro.

“She had the journalism bug from the start,” says long-time political reporter Al Cross, who is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.

But life in southern Kentucky was not easy for blacks in the early 20th century. Cross says Russellville had a reputation for lynchings, and the plantation culture of the Confederacy lingered in the area for decades.

After training as a teacher at what is now Kentucky State University, Dunnigan got a job in a segregated school in Todd County. But she still had to do domestic labor for local white families to make ends meet. During World War II she moved to Washington, D.C., to take find civil service work.

“Alice was a person of ambition,” says Cross, “and she saw Washington as a really fertile field where you could plant your stake and make it grow, and she started making connections immediately.”

While in Washington, Dunnigan took classes at Howard University and began writing for black-owned newspapers and what was then called the Associated Negro Press news agency. In 1947, she garnered credentials to cover Capitol Hill and the White House.

“It’s really a remarkable story to come from such a relatively low position on the socio-economic totem pole and be in the Oval Office questioning the president,” says Cross.

Life as a Working Journalist

Dunnigan joined Truman’s weekly conversation with reporters, and she was part of the press pool that accompanied the president on his whistle-stop train tour during his 1948 re-election campaign.

“Truman treated her just like any other reporter,” says Cross.

She also challenged the president on segregation. After Truman issued the executive order to desegregate the military, Dunnigan asked the president when he would integrate military schools around the nation. Kevin Dunnigan, the journalist’s grandson, says that shortly after that question, Truman opened those schools to black service members, setting the stage for larger integration efforts to come.

“So she had a profound effect on those persons and it was a lead-in to desegregating the whole country,” says Kevin Dunnigan.

Even as a respected member of the press, Dunnigan still faced racism and racial indignities in the white world of Washington politics. Cross says Dunnigan’s perseverance and professionalism in the face of these challenges provides a good role model for young journalists.

“Students today are more aware of the issues of race and class and color and disparity,” says Cross. “Here they saw a great example of someone who had overcome quite a few obstacles.”

Soraya Dunnigan Brandon says her grandmother understood that blacks had to work twice as hard to get opportunities in those days.

“Then you had that pressure of, you are representing not just your family but you’re representing the race, and so you have to make us proud,” says Brandon.

In the 1960s Dunnigan left journalism to work in the administrations of President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson. Kevin Dunnigan says his grandmother was one of the black leaders that LBJ asked to travel the nation after passage of the Civil Rights Act to see if American businesses were obeying the law. Dunnigan says his grandmother once admitted to him that she was afraid about what they might encounter on those trips.

“She said, ‘Fear is the underside of courage and almost anything that you do that’s significant, you may have a little fear in there. But manifest outwardly that fear with courage such that the deeper your fear, the stronger your courage,’” says Kevin Dunnigan.

Dunnigan published her autobiography, “A Black Woman’s Experience: From Schoolhouse to White House,” in 1974. She died in 1983 with few people knowing of her historic role in American journalism.

Paying Tribute to a Native Daughter

Then, a few years ago, Sonya Ross, a former White House correspondent for the Associated Press, decided to make a list of all the black women who had covered the Oval Office. She says she discovered there were 28, starting with Alice Dunnigan in 1947.

Ross had never heard of Dunnigan, so she researched her and learned her story. Then she nominated Dunnigan to be posthumously honored in the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.

That helped kindle interest in Dunnigan’s life and work back in her hometown of Russellville. Cross says local attorney and historic preservation activist Joe Gran Clark launched an effort to get a statue of the reporter made and located at the town’s African American Heritage Center.

“Having a statue to Alice Allison Dunnigan in the middle of the African American section of town is a real statement,” says Cross. “The fact that a leading white citizen of Russellville was willing to spearhead this kind of campaign I think sent a pretty strong message to everybody in Logan County.”

Clark asked Lexington sculptor Amanda Matthews to create a bronze likeness of Dunnigan. The statue was unveiled last year at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and later travelled to the Truman Presidential Library and Kentucky State University, Dunnigan’s alma mater, before arriving at its permanent home in Russellville.

“Look at her, standing there tall and proud and beautiful, keeping watch over this wonderful community she loved,” said Sonya Ross at the commemoration ceremony in August.

After the ceremony, Suzette White reflected on her grandmother and her contributions to civil rights in America. She describes Dunnigan as a warrior who enjoyed drinking a Bloody Mary and smoking her pipe at the end of a long day.

“It’s been [113] years since she was born, and for this to take place at this time I think is more than past due,” says White. “It’s a momentous occasion for all of us.”

Program Details

Connections

About Connections

Each week, host Renee Shaw and a variety of interesting and engaging people - including business leaders, entertainers, authors, celebrities, and more - explore a broad array of topics impacting Kentucky and the world.

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Dr. Janet Taylor - S9 E29

Renee speaks with Dr. Janet Taylor, psychiatrist, certified life coach, and national commentator on work-life balance and mental health issues.

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Djuan Trent - S9 E30

Former Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent talks about her decision come out as a gay woman, reaction from family and friends, her activism in advancing gay rights and marriage, and more.

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Carol Cecil; Resa Gonzalez - Youth Mental Health - S14 E5

Renee speaks with Carol Cecil, executive director of the Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children, a statewide support, training, and advocacy group that works with families and caregivers of children with behavioral health challenges. Also, Resa Gonzalez talks candidly about her son Shawn's trials with depression, bipolar disorder, and a form of autism, and how he's now thriving and helping others.

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DV8 Kitchen - S13 E17

Renee visits DV8 Kitchen, a restaurant and bakery in Lexington that provides second chance employment opportunities for people in substance recovery who are trying to redirect their lives. She speaks with Rob and Diane Perez about their vision for the restaurant and its support from the community. Renee also talks with employees at the eatery to hear their stories of recovery and how DV8 Kitchen helps them.

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Hasan Davis - S9 E31

Renee speaks with former Kentucky Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Hasan Davis, about recent juvenile justice reform. Davis was featured in the recent PBS Frontline program "Prison State," about Kentucky's correction system, and interviewed for KET's follow-up program, Prison State: A Kentucky Community Conversation.

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Prison Reform In Kentucky - S9 E32

Renee continues the discussion about Kentucky prison reform recently highlighted on the PBS Frontline program "Prison State." Her guests are: Mark Bolton, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections; Sheila Schuster, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and mental health advocate; and Ray Larson, Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney.

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Ted Strader - COPES - S9 E33

Ted Strader, the director of the Council on Prevention and Education: Substances, Inc. (COPES) in Louisville, discusses how partnering agencies with the corrections system can help former inmates with successful re-entry into society.

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Colene Elridge - S9 E34

Renee speaks with human resources professional and life coach Colene Elridge, better known as Coach Colene, owner of Be More Consulting.

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Rape Culture - S9 E35

Renee's guests are Mae Suramek, executive director of the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and Rus Funk, executive director of MensWork- Eliminating Violence Against Women.

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Connections

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Mental Health Courts - S9 E36

Kelly Gunning, director of advocacy and public policy, NAMI Lexington (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and Public Defender Jon Landon, discuss mental health laws in Kentucky.

  • Monday August 24, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Dr. Timothy M. Houchin - S9 E37

Renee speaks with Lexington psychiatrist Dr. Timothy M. Houchin about attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Houchin is a board-certified adult, child/adolescent, and forensic psychiatrist, and the founder and president of 360 Mental Health Services in Lexington.

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Charisse Gillett - Lexington Theological Seminary - S9 E38

Renee speaks with Dr. Charisse Gillett, president of the Lexington Theological Seminary. Dr. Gillett is the first woman and first African-American selected to lead the seminary.

  • Wednesday August 26, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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African Americans and Mental Health - S9 E39

Renee speaks with Sycarah Fisher, associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Kentucky, and Shambra Mulder, an assistant professor in the School of Education at Kentucky State University.

  • Thursday August 27, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Wil James - S9 E40

Renee talks with Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky.

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Dr. Robert Hilgers - S9 E41

Renee speaks with Dr. Robert Hilgers, founder and president of the Global Women's Cancer Alliance (WGCA). The WGCA works to advance women's health, addressing particularly those in need of cancer care in developing countries.

  • Monday August 31, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Judi Jennings - S9 E42

Renee's guest is Judi Jennings, former executive director of the Kentucky Foundation for Women, feminist art advocate, and writer.

  • Tuesday September 1, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Marta Miranda - S9 E43

Renee speaks with Marta Miranda, chief empowerment officer of the Center for Women and Families in Louisville.

  • Wednesday September 2, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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SWAG - Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence - S9 E44

Lexington moms LaTosha Reynolds and Tonya Lindsey talk about losing their sons to gun violence and how the group they founded, SWAG - Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence, is working to keep youth safe.

  • Thursday September 3, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Frontier Nursing University - S9 E45

Drs. Susan Stone and Julie Marfell of Frontier Nursing University discuss the institution's 75-year legacy as the longest continually-operating and largest midwifery program in the nation.

  • Friday September 4, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Tanya Torp and Holly Houston - S9 E46

Community Activist Tanya Torp, program director for Step by Step, a mentoring ministry for at risk single mothers, and Holly Houston, a family court lawyer and co-founder of GLOW - Greater Louisville Outstanding Women, discuss social justice, youth empowerment, leadership development, and girl power.

  • Monday September 7, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Chris Rabb - S10 E1

Chris Rabb, author of Invisible Capital: How Unseen Forces Shape Entrepreneurial Opportunity, explores how behind-the-scenes factors - human, cultural, and social capital - affect whether a business will be successful.

  • Tuesday September 8, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Bloggers on Personal Development - S10 E2

Meet two women who share their personal journeys through life's challenges by writing blogs. Writer Emmie Sandford is a corporate marketer who owns a social media consulting company. She has been chronicling her journey to a healthier weight on her blog, authenticallyemmie.com. Sheryl Withers Woolverton, a Lexington clinical social worker and therapist, is a former grief counselor with Hospice of the Bluegrass who has shared her journey of grief over a miscarriage and the death of her mother and grandmother. Her blog is called How to Make a Life.

  • Wednesday September 9, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Soreyda Benedit Begley and Chris Begley - S10 E3

Honduras native Soreyda Benedit Begley is dressing up Lexington's fashion scene by showcasing the blossoming talents of designers, like herself, right here in the Bluegrass. Her one-of-a-kind originals have graced runways in New York, Chicago, and Atlanta.

  • Thursday September 10, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kevin Chapman - S10 E5

Renee speaks with Kevin Chapman, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist who provides evidence-based treatment for anxiety and related disorders to clients in his private practice in Louisville. Dr. Chapman also specializes in Exposure and Response (Ritual) Prevention for OCD and Prolonged Exposure for PTSD.

  • Friday September 11, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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MaryLee Underwoood and Chastity Ross - CCDD - S9 E27

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50th Anniversary of the March on Frankfort - S9 E22

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Carol Cecil; Resa Gonzalez - Youth Mental Health - S14 E5

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Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker - S9 E21

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Vershawn A. Young - S9 E20

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Sabrina Butler and Kate Miller - S9 E19

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History Maker; Tuskegee Airmen Historians - S9 E14

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Middle Class Struggles and Poverty - S9 E13

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Sharon Price; Damon Cobble - S15 E7

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The Forgotten Minority - S9 E12

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Human Trafficking - S9 E11

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  • Thursday July 30, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday July 30, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 30, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Diabetes Prevention and Control - S9 E10

  • Wednesday July 29, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 29, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 29, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 29, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Innocence Project - S9 E9

  • Tuesday July 28, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 28, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 28, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 28, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Pop Culture and Commodification of Women - S9 E8

  • Monday July 27, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 27, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 27, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 27, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 27, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 27, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Tiffany Manuel - Affordable Housing - S13 E42

  • Sunday August 2, 2020 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday August 2, 2020 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday August 1, 2020 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday August 1, 2020 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 29, 2020 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 29, 2020 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday July 29, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 29, 2020 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday July 26, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday July 26, 2020 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday July 26, 2020 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 26, 2020 3:30 pm CT on KETKY

Ruth Brinkley - KentuckyOne Health - S9 E5

  • Friday July 24, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 24, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday July 24, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 24, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday July 24, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 24, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Malcolm Ratchford - S9 E4

  • Thursday July 23, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 23, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday July 23, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 23, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Roszalyn Akins - S9 E3

  • Wednesday July 22, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 22, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 22, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 22, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Betty Baye - S9 E1

  • Tuesday July 21, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 21, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 21, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 21, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 21, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 21, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Nikky Finney - S8 E43

  • Monday July 20, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 20, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 20, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 20, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 20, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 20, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Joshua A. Douglas - Voting Rights Reform - S14 E25

  • Sunday July 26, 2020 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 26, 2020 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday July 25, 2020 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday July 25, 2020 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 22, 2020 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 22, 2020 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday July 22, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 22, 2020 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday July 19, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday July 19, 2020 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday July 19, 2020 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 19, 2020 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday July 19, 2020 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday July 19, 2020 11:00 am CT on KET

Dorothy J. Edwards - S8 E41

  • Friday July 17, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 17, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday July 17, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 17, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday July 17, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 17, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Food Security (Part 2) - S8 E39

  • Thursday July 16, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 16, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday July 16, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 16, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday July 16, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 16, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Food Security - S8 E38

  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Shevawn Akers - S8 E37

  • Tuesday July 14, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 14, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 14, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 14, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 14, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 14, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Dana Branham - S8 E36

  • Monday July 13, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 13, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 13, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 13, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 13, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 13, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Pastor Edward Palmer - Racial Bias and Juvenile Justice Reform - S15 E2

  • Sunday July 19, 2020 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 19, 2020 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday July 18, 2020 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday July 18, 2020 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 15, 2020 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday July 12, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday July 12, 2020 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday July 12, 2020 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 12, 2020 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday July 12, 2020 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday July 12, 2020 11:00 am CT on KET

Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland - S15 E10

  • Sunday July 12, 2020 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 12, 2020 7:00 am CT on KETKY
Top

Season 15

UK College of Education Dean Julian Vasquez Heilig

S15 E24 Length 26:41 Premiere Date 3.22.20

Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball/McLeod's Coffee House

S15 E23 Length 27:27 Premiere Date 3.15.20

Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon

S15 E22 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 2.23.20

Georgetown College President William Jones

S15 E21 Length 27:02 Premiere Date 2.16.20

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles

S15 E20 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 2.9.20

Kentucky House Minority Whip Angie Hatton

S15 E19 Length 28:47 Premiere Date 2.2.20

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron

S15 E18 Length 28:17 Premiere Date 1.26.20

Secretary of State Michael Adams

S15 E17 Length 28:47 Premiere Date 1.19.20

Kentucky House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins

S15 E16 Length 22:01 Premiere Date 1.12.20

Ashli Watts - Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

S15 E15 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 1.5.20

U.S. Attorney Robert Duncan

S15 E14 Length 27:18 Premiere Date 12.15.19

Inclusivity in Fashion - Frankie Lewis; RaeShanda Johnson

S15 E13 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 11.24.19

Dayna Seelig

S15 E12 Length 26:57 Premiere Date 11.17.19

Rachael Denhollander

S15 E11 Length 26:42 Premiere Date 11.10.19

Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland

S15 E10 Length 26:55 Premiere Date 11.3.19

Alice Allison Dunnigan - Pioneering Journalist

S15 E9 Length 26:37 Premiere Date 10.27.19

Sharon Price and Damon Cobble

S15 E7 Length 27:07 Premiere Date 10.13.19

Terry Brooks - Kentucky Youth Advocates

S15 E6 Length 27:47 Premiere Date 10.6.19

Aaron Thompson - Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

S15 E5 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 9.29.19

Opioid Addiction Response and Research

S15 E3 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 9.15.19

Pastor Edward Palmer

S15 E2 Length 28:07 Premiere Date 9.8.19

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers

S15 E1 Length 28:14 Premiere Date 9.1.19

Explore KET