(LEX 18) — Journalist Al Smith, who was known as the first host of KET's "Comment on Kentucky," died at the age of 94.
Smith made his debut on Comment on Kentucky in 1974, the same time he owned and managed a chain of rural weekly newspapers based in Russellville. The program featured journalists from across Kentucky discussing weekly news in the state.
Smith used Comment on Kentucky to emphasize rural journalism as a vital voice that informed citizens throughout the state’s 120 geographically and culturally disparate counties. Under Smith, the program became renowned for its spirited discussion across the political spectrum — driven by his knowledge of the Commonwealth’s civic life and his talent for storytelling.
“Through his more than 30 years as host of Comment on Kentucky, Al established KET as the place to be on Friday nights," KET executive director and CEO Shae Hopkins said. "Known for his many colorful stories, Al’s passion for addressing the issues facing Kentuckians fueled a remarkable career in journalism.”
Smith received numerous honors for his journalism and his public service. Among them are the Al Smith Award, established by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2011. He also earned several honorary doctorates, including a Doctor of Letters from the University of Kentucky in 2011. In addition, Smith served as the head of the Appalachian Regional Commission under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan from 1979 to 1982.