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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Comment on Kentucky 30th Anniversary

This is a rough draft of what you will see in my column for next week.

Comment on Kentucky

“I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next 30 years.”

-Tim McGraw

This month is the 30th anniversary for KET’s Comment on Kentucky, a show where all Kentuckians can watch Al Smith and a panel of journalists discuss current events.

I’ve become a semi regular on the show this year. I suspect it is because that I have the category of bleeding heart business columnist to myself. If you want that perspective, I am it.

The bigger reason is that Al ceaselessly encourages my mid life turn to journalism. He gives me support and has been a tremendous friend.

There are hundreds of others that Al has helped in the same way. Al is determined to make an impact on society.

Few people know that Al has had his hand in several projects that have shaped Kentucky’s history. He also has his eye on helping individuals, one person at a time.

The 30th anniversary is big, but a bigger anniversary is one that Al celebrates one day at a time. About 40 years ago, he made a decision not to have another drink. That decision started his path to greatness.

Since I battle over eating, I admire someone who overcomes compulsive behaviors and I draw inspiration from the way that Al handles his life.

There are a number of unusual stories about how Comment on Kentucky guests are chosen but I believe mine has to top the list.

20 years ago, I was in the first group of Community Columnists selected by the Lexington Herald Leader and also did investment features on WKQQ-FM. The news director started complaining that Comment never had journalists from rock stations on his program.

I told him that that interviewing Ozzy Osbourne and playing “Wake Up Maggie” every time he mentioned Margaret Thatcher might be hurting his chances. I said that Comment did not use Community Columnists either.

Thus a television career was born. I wrote “Give A Struggling Columnists his big break”. The column discussed I should be on the show and admitted that Comment on Kentucky and professional wrestling were the shows I watched most frequently.

The day the column ran, I got a call from Al. Although his first reaction was to think I was a crazed publicity seeker, he put me on the show. He had planned only using me for a few minutes but two other guests cancelled due to bad weather. He devoted half of the show to my thoughts on politics, wrestling and why guys from Northern Kentucky don’t like to dance.

He told me he would have me on the show again.

20 years later, he was true to his word.

The Herald quit using Community Columnists in 1986. When they later changed their minds, I tried to comeback but was turned down. Twice. I noted that I did not hurt the career of my previous editor, who went on to be editor of the Los Angeles Times, but I had no forum for my column.

Until now. The Register gave me an opportunity and Al has been a big fan. He lets everyone in the state know about my column.

For most of the show’s 30 years, I have been an active Comment on Kentucky viewer. My favorite guest was Sy Ramsey, an AP journalist whose wit and sarcasm gave an edge to the show.

Not that Comment has the edge of the most talk shows. The guests strike a balance of not yelling like the idiots on the McLaughlin Group or boring people like Wall Street Week. It is informative but entertaining.

I keep trying to get Al to book me on Comment with John David Dyche, a conservative columnist for the Courier Journal. I figure that the combination of a Democrat financial consultant and a Republican trial lawyer would be provide some sparks. Al has resisted the suggestion.

Al has no plans to slow down his quest to inform and educate us. He will keep making an impact on Kentucky.

To paraphrase Tim McGraw, “Lord Have Mercy on his next thirty years.”

Don McNay is President of McNay Settlement Group and will not discuss professional wrestling or dancing on any future Comment on Kentucky appearances. You can write to him at or read other things he has written at