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Twilight in Hazard

An Appalachian Reckoning

From the last major metropolitan newspaper reporter stationed in the Eastern Kentucky mountains, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his work there, comes the story of how a convergence of events at the start of the new millennium continues to impact life in the region and the soul of the nation.

“Most people who live in Louisville have never been to Eastern Kentucky and have no idea what’s happening there. We would want you to cover the area like a foreign correspondent would.” That’s what Alan Maimon’s editor at the the Louisville Courier-Journal told him in a job interview in the early days of the 21st century.

When Maimon took the job and arrived in Hazard, Kentucky as the Journal’s regional bureau chief, he realized that he was reporting on a much bigger story than the county’s otherness. It was a region in the grip of ecological devastation, a man-made prescription pill epidemic, and where the aftermath of September 11th was taking an outsize toll. He witnessed first hand the enchroaching structural forces that would keep the region in poverty for decades to follow, even as many of those forces remain unacknowledged today.

Through the stories he covered then, and follows up on today, Maimon–now forever linked to the region having married into a coal mining family–offers a broader view of the region than we’ve had in recent portrayals. With the bureau he ran now shuttered, he offers a unique perspective in an age when media outlets have cut back or eliminated coverage of the most distressed regions of the country.

Alan Maimon is an award-winning journalist and author. As a reporter with the Louisville Courier-Journal, he was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for a series about gaping holes in Kentucky’s justice system. His work for the Las Vegas Review-Journal on police shootings and the court system garnered national awards and acclaim. He started his professional writing career as a news assistant and reporter in the Berlin bureau of The New York Times. He attended Brown University and is a former Fulbright scholar. He lives in Princeton, NJ.