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Whitney Austin - Reducing Gun Violence

Whitney Austin - Reducing Gun Violence

Renee Shaw talks with Whitney Austin, who narrowly survived a shooting at a Cincinnati bank three years ago. Now, she's the founder of Whitney/Strong, an organization dedicated to forging common-sense, bipartisan solutions to reducing gun violence.
S17 E4 Length 27:01 Premiere: 9.26.21

Survivor of Mass Shooting Discusses Her Mission to Prevent More Tragedies from Happening

Three years ago this month, Whitney Austin was lying in a hospital bed, recovering from a dozen gunshot wounds she suffered during a mass shooting that unfolded at the Fifth Third Bank building in downtown Cincinnati. Miraculously, the hail of bullets that struck her missed her major organs and arteries. When she regained consciousness and doctors explained what happened to her, she knew her life would never be the same.

“It was the moment where I knew I was going to survive,” Austin says, “and that I had to do something to help others.”

After her recovery, Austin, who lives in Louisville, left her job as a vice president for Fifth Third, and started a nonprofit organization called Whitney/Strong, which is dedicated to finding and implementing bipartisan, common-sense solutions to end the scourge of gun violence in America. She says the more she researched the issue after her incident, the more she realized she had to put her time and skills into full-time advocacy.

“I cared about preventing gun violence before this happened to me, but I didn’t have the courage to act on it in the way that I should have,” Austin says.

‘Reducing Gun Violence and Preserving the Second Amendment’

Four people died the morning of Sept. 6, 2018, including the shooter. It was just one of 336 mass shootings in the United States that year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. So far this year, there have been more than 535 mass shootings, and more than 33,000 deaths from gunshot wounds, including both homicides and suicides.

Not only did Austin survive the Fifth Third Bank shooting, but she sustained no serious long-term physical damage other than limited mobility in one shoulder and some numbness in one hand. She did have five surgeries to repair the damage, though, and she says she’s had hundreds of hours of physical and occupational therapy as well as counseling for herself and her family.

“I know how difficult life is when you’re shot and when you’re left to pick up the pieces, and I don’t want anybody else to experience this, or worse, to lose someone they love,” says Austin. “This is why I do the work.”

But Austin says she didn’t want to fall into the trap of polarizing debates or demonizing gun owners. She says that only generates noise and division that prevents real progress on the issue.

“Reducing gun violence and preserving the Second Amendment are not mutually exclusive goals, and I can say that as a gun owner,” says Austin. “So how can we approach this differently and invite everyone to participate in solving this problem? Because that’s what matters.”

Austin and her group advocate for research-based solutions at the state and federal levels that she says can be successful in reducing gun violence. Some proposals involve legislation, such as her crisis aversion and rights retention bill, also known as CARR. That provides for a judicial process to temporarily remove firearms from a gun owner mired in addiction or a mental health crisis.

Republican state Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville and Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, backed the CARR proposal in the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly Session. But Senate Bill 229 never made it out of committee.

Whitney/Strong also advocates for non-policy solutions such as the Save a Life program that promotes individual responsibility and safe storage of personal firearms. Austin says the initiative seeks to protect family members from deadly weapons, including toddlers and young children who may find and accidentally discharge a firearm. But she says teens and young adults pose an even greater risk.

“In the age group of 10 to 24 we have seen adolescent suicide rates increase more than 60 percent since 2007,” she says. “Suicide is the biggest problem that we have in the state of Kentucky with more than 400 people dying every year to firearm suicide.”

Finally, Austin says the Save a Life program also helps prevent legally owned guns from being stolen and used for illegal activities. Even if a gun was purchased for personal safety, Austin says the weapon is more likely to be discharged by a family member in the home than used to defend against an intruder.

Finding Hope in Small Victories

The push for any kind of gun measures is arduous and successes are rare, even when there is bipartisan support. Austin says she finds hope in small but important victories, like a 2019 vote in Congress to appropriate $25 million to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health for gun violence research. She contends the more data policymakers have on the issue, the easier it will be to find consensus on potential solutions.

“We really have to continue to do the research to understand the factors that come together and are at play when gun violence occurs,” she says.

Even while her physical wounds have healed, the emotional scars from that September morning three years ago persist. Austin says she still has moments of survivor’s guilt, although not nearly as frequently as she initially did. She says she’ll never know why she survived, but adds that she plans pose that question to God when she dies. She says she came to realize feelings of guilt consume valuable energy she could devote to working to reduce gun violence.

She also has to navigate in a world where gun violence makes headlines nearly every day. Austin says she can be triggered by news of a mass shooting similar to hers, or even by a senseless gun death, like the recent drive-by shooting of a Louisville teenager waiting a school bus stop.

“I try to give myself the space that I need to pray and process what has happened and then I use it to reenergize myself to do the work of Whitney/Strong,” says Austin. “Whitney/Strong in some ways is my therapy, and I’m so grateful to have it because I know that the work we’re doing is making a difference and that we are saving lives.”

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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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Allison Joseph - S11 E8

Allison Joseph is the author of six poetry books. She teaches at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, where she helped found {Crab Orchard Review}, a literary journal, and the Young Writers Workshop, a co-ed residential summer program for teen writers.

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Ari Berman - S11 E9

Renee's guest is Ari Berman, a contributing writer for "The Nation" magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights and the intersection of money and politics. The title of his new book is "Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America".

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Miss Kentucky Clark Davis - S11 E10

Renee speaks with Miss Kentucky Clark Davis, a sophomore at the University of Kentucky majoring in vocal performance, with a minor in political science. Davis was diagnosed with dyslexia in elementary school. Her pageant platform is dyslexia awareness.

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Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear - S11 E11

Renee speaks with Jane Beshear, former first lady of Kentucky, about her policy initiatives and programs during her time in the Governor's Mansion.

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Wayne Lewis - S11 E15

University of Kentucky professor Wayne Lewis, Ph.D., author of "The Politics of Parent Choice in Public Education" and the forthcoming, "Black Choice", talks about charter school legislation in Kentucky and its effectiveness in other states in narrowing the achievement gap.

  • Friday October 29, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kentucky Book Festival - S17 E8

Renee Shaw talks with authors Silas House, Gwenda Bond and Julian Thomas about their work that will be highlighted at the 40th annual Kentucky Book Festival held in Lexington in November. Then, Sara Woods, festival director for Kentucky Humanities, talks about the schedule that includes virtual and in-person events during the week, including a Saturday event featuring 140 authors.

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Connections - S17 E9

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Anthony Smith - S11 E16

Anthony Smith, CEO of Cities United, a national network of communities focused on eliminating violence related to African American males, talks about the violence-curbing initiatives he helped create in Louisville including the Right Turn program for teenagers 16 to 19 who have committed minor infractions that have landed them in the court system.

  • Monday November 1, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Andrew Brennen - S11 E17

Renee speaks with Andrew Brennen, national field director for Student Voice, a for-students-by-students nonprofit organization spearheading a social movement to integrate student voices into the global education conversation. He is also co-founder, director of the Student Voice Team at the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

  • Tuesday November 2, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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A Tribute to Georgia Davis Powers - S11 E18

In this special episode, Renee and her guests Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP, and State Sen. Gerald Neal celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer and former Kentucky Sen. Georgia Davis Powers, the first African-American and first woman elected to the Kentucky Senate. Powers died January 30, 2016 at the age of 92. The program features never-before-seen footage of an interview Renee conducted with Powers two years ago.

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Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention - S11 E24

Jill Seyfred, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, discusses efforts to increase awareness and prevention of child abuse in the state.

  • Thursday November 4, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes - S11 E25

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes talks about her legislative agenda and the new online voter registration portal.

  • Friday November 5, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections - S17 E10

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Crystal Wilkinson - S11 E26

Affrilachian poet and author Crystal Wilkinson talks about her first novel, "The Birds of Opulence", that tackles the issue of mental illness and the plight of the African American female experience in the South.

  • Monday November 8, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Dr. Erin Frazier - S11 E27

Renee's guest is Dr. Erin Frazier, a pediatrician with Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville. She also serves as medical director at Children's Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy and chair of the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse. Dr. Frazier discusses coping techniques for parents that can prevent child abuse. She specializes in educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of shaking infants and strategies for dealing with persistent crying babies.

  • Tuesday November 9, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Gretchen Hunt - S11 E28

Renee's guest is Gretchen Hunt, who heads the Office of Victims Advocacy within the Office of the Kentucky Attorney General. She talks about recent legislative successes in protecting women from violent crime. Hunt was a leader in helping to advocate for passage of Kentucky's Human Trafficking Victims Rights Act.

  • Wednesday November 10, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kishonna Gray - S11 E29

Renee's guest is Dr. Kishonna Gray, assistant professor in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. She is also the founder and director of the Critical Gaming Lab housed in the School of Justice Studies. Dr. Gray also holds a joint position in Women & Gender Studies and is an affiliate faculty in the African/African-American Studies Program. Her research and teaching interests incorporate an intersecting focus on identity, culture, and new media.

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Oral Health Care In Kentucky - S11 E30

Renee and her guests Lacey McNary, a health policy consultant and principal of McNary and Associates and Dr. Laura Hancock Jones, a dentist working with the UK College of Dentistry Public Health Division's Western Kentucky Dental Outreach Program and chair of the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition, discuss the state of oral health in Kentucky. Part of KET's "Inside Oral Health Care" initiative, funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

  • Friday November 12, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections - S17 E11

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Jessie Laine Powell - S11 E31

Lexington-based national recording jazz artist Jessie Laine Powell performs and discusses her new album, "Fill the Void". Powell talks about how her teenage daughter inspired the song, "You're Okay."

  • Monday November 15, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Scott Hesseltine - S11 E32

Scott Hesseltine, vice president of addiction services at Seven Counties Services, discusses new models of treatment to help those with opioid abuse disorders recover. He also talks about a new facility that serves expectant mothers with addiction throughout their pregnancy with wraparound services to get them on the path to recovery. Part of KET's "Inside Opioid Addiction" initiative, funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

  • Tuesday November 16, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Dr. Lynne Saddler - S11 E33

Dr. Lynne Saddler, district director of health at the Northern Kentucky Health Department, talks about the heroin epidemic in Northern Kentucky. She discusses current community efforts and the impact of a syringe exchange program. Part of KET's "Inside Opioid Addiction" initiative, funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

  • Wednesday November 17, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Fayette County Veterans Treatment Court - S11 E34

Kathy Vasquez, veterans justice outreach specialist, and Elton Terry, recovery coordinator, with the Lexington VA Medical Center, talk about the Fayette County Veterans Treatment Court (FCVTC). The FCVTC program provides court-supervised treatment for veterans as an alternative to incarceration, services and treatments address substance abuse and/or mental health; connection to benefits; and help with housing, employment, and education. Part of KET's "Inside Opioid Addiction" initiative, funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

  • Thursday November 18, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Jason Merrick - S11 E35

Jason Merrick, director of inmate addiction services at the Kenton County Detention Center, discusses the inmate drug and alcohol treatment program he launched consisting of counseling sessions, time for inmates to pursue their GED certificates, and attend 12-step programs. Part of KET's "Inside Opioid Addiction" initiative, funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

  • Friday November 19, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections - S17 E13

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Connections - S17 E12

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Kimberly Johnson - S11 E36

Renee's guest is Kimberly Johnson, Ph.D., director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The Center for Substance Abuse promotes community-based substance abuse treatment and recovery services for individuals and families in every community. Taped at the SAMHSA headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, Renee talks with Dr. Johnson about the nation's reliance on high-powered pain killers to manage pain, addiction recovery models, drug abuse prevention, and more. Part of KET's "Inside Opioid Addiction" initiative, funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

  • Monday November 22, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack - S11 E37

From the USDA in Washington, D.C., Renee talks with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who discusses the White House's response to the opioid addiction epidemic sweeping the nation, and the Obama Administration's budget proposal to invest more than $1 billion dollars in addiction treatment. Secretary Vilsack is personally familiar with addiction as he watched his adoptive mother struggle with drug use before she eventually found a path to sobriety. He and Renee discuss the challenges of treating addicts in rural areas, the connections between poverty and addiction, drug-monitoring programs to prevent doctor shopping, and the use of technology in recovery tools. Part of KET's "Inside Opioid Addiction" initiative, funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

  • Tuesday November 23, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Terrence Walton - S11 E38

Renee's guest is Terrence Walton, chief operating officer of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Of the nearly 2.5 million people incarcerated in America, nearly half of them are in jail because of drug use and addiction. There are more than 3,000 drug courts across the nation to help those with substance-abuse disorders get and stay on the right side of the law. Renee talks with Terrence Walton in Baltimore, Maryland, about the success of drug courts in helping addicts recover and reducing crime. Part of KET's "Inside Opioid Addiction" initiative, funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

  • Wednesday November 24, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Dr. Leana Wen - S11 E39

Renee's guest is Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City health commissioner, emergency room physician, and patient advocate. Renee visits the Baltimore City Health Department to talk with Dr. Wen about the country's struggle to manage pain, physician responsibility in prescribing powerful painkillers, harm-reduction techniques like needle exchange, and the accessibility of overdose-reversal drugs. Part of KET's "Inside Opioid Addiction" initiative, funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

  • Thursday November 25, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kentucky Book Festival - S17 E8

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Dorothy Butler Gilliam - S11 E7

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Jacinda Townsend - S11 E6

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Kellie Blair Hardt - S11 E5

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Childhood Cancer - S11 E4

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The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia - Gerald Smith - S11 E3

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Devine Carama - S17 E7

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  • Saturday October 23, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday October 23, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 20, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday October 20, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday October 20, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday October 20, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday October 17, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday October 17, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday October 17, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday October 17, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday October 17, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
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Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk - S11 E2

  • Friday October 15, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday October 15, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday October 15, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
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Kinship Care - S10 E46

  • Thursday October 14, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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  • Thursday October 14, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Faith Politics - S10 E45

  • Wednesday October 13, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 13, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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JoAnne Wheeler Bland - S10 E44

  • Tuesday October 12, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday October 12, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday October 12, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Andre Taylor - S10 E43

  • Monday October 11, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday October 11, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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Rufus Friday - S17 E6

  • Sunday October 17, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday October 17, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday October 16, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday October 16, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 13, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday October 13, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday October 13, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday October 13, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday October 10, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday October 10, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday October 10, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday October 10, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday October 10, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday October 10, 2021 11:00 am CT on KET

Aaron Thompson - S17 E5

  • Sunday October 10, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday October 10, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 6, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday October 6, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday October 6, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday October 6, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday October 3, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
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Infant Nutrition and Breastfeeding - S10 E42

  • Friday October 8, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday October 8, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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Cathe Dykstra - Family Scholar House - S10 E41

  • Thursday October 7, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday October 7, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday October 7, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
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Gigi Butler - Gigi's Cupcakes - S10 E39

  • Wednesday October 6, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 6, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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Cathy Zion - Zion Publications LLC - S10 E38

  • Tuesday October 5, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday October 5, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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Diabetes Epidemic - S10 E20

  • Friday October 1, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday October 1, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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  • Friday October 1, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
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Susan and Morgan Guess - S10 E34

  • Thursday September 30, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 30, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 30, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 30, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
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Jay Williams - S10 E33

  • Wednesday September 29, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 29, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 29, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 29, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
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Pellom McDaniels - S10 E30

  • Tuesday September 28, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 28, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 28, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 28, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 28, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 28, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Kiley Lane Parker - S10 E29

  • Monday September 27, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 27, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 27, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 27, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 27, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Whitney Austin - Reducing Gun Violence - S17 E4

  • Sunday October 3, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday October 3, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday October 2, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday October 2, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 29, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 29, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday September 29, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 29, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday September 26, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 26, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 26, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
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Filmmaker Sarah Burns - S17 E3

  • Sunday September 26, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 26, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday September 25, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday September 25, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY

Kevin Chapman - S10 E28

  • Friday September 24, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 24, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 24, 2021 2:11 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 24, 2021 1:11 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 24, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kendell Nash - ECHO - S10 E27

  • Thursday September 23, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 23, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 23, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 23, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY
Top

Season 17 Episodes

2021 Kentucky Book Festival

S17 E8 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 10.24.21

Devine Carama

S17 E7 Length 27:41 Premiere Date 10.17.21

Rufus Friday

S17 E6 Length 27:56 Premiere Date 10.10.21

Aaron Thompson

S17 E5 Length 28:04 Premiere Date 10.3.21

Whitney Austin - Reducing Gun Violence

S17 E4 Length 27:01 Premiere Date 9.26.21

Filmmaker Sarah Burns

S17 E3 Length 28:11 Premiere Date 9.19.21

Charlene Buckles and Dan Wu

S17 E2 Length 27:23 Premiere Date 9.12.21

Explore KET