FRANKFORT — Ferrell Wellman announced Friday that he is retiring immediately as host of Kentucky Educational Television's Comment on Kentucky, a weekly public affairs show that focuses on political and government news in the state.
Wellman, a veteran broadcaster, educator and Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame member, was named host of the program in 2008. It is the longest running public affairs series on KET.
"Over the last few months, I had been considering when would be a good time to leave the moderator's chair," Wellman said in a news release. "I'm a firm believer in leaving a position a little too early rather than a little late."
Wellman said the timing of his decision was influenced by a recent knee injury and the need to be away from the program for an extended time while he rehabilitates.
"Ferrell has continued Comment's tradition of insightful and independent analysis admirably, always displaying the utmost integrity, professionalism and keen understanding of the news stories most greatly impacting our commonwealth each week," said Shae Hopkins, executive director of KET. "He will be greatly missed, and the entire KET family wishes him a speedy recovery and all the best."
Hopkins did not say who will replace Wellman.
Another veteran broadcaster, Bill Bryant, is filling in as interim host. Bryant is an anchor and managing editor at WKYT in Lexington and host of Kentucky Newsmakers.
Veteran journalist Al Smith, who hosted the show for 33 years, called Wellman's retirement "a loss to journalism in Kentucky.
"He is one of the most fair, balanced, informed and energetic journalists I ever worked with in my 50-plus years in Kentucky," Smith said. "He also has been a wonderful mentor to journalism students and young journalists."
Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, said Wellman "always brought solid journalism to the show."
"He was committed to serving the public and pulling the curtain back so the citizens of Kentucky could see what was going on in Kentucky government," Cross said.
A native of Pikeville, Wellman earned a bachelor's degree in broadcasting from Eastern Kentucky University and a master's in journalism and mass communication from the University of South Carolina.
Most of Wellman's reporting career was spent with WAVE-TV in Louisville, where he was its Frankfort reporter for more than 16 years. He also taught broadcasting at Eastern Kentucky University. In 2013, Wellman was inducted into the Kentucky Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame and received the Kentucky MIC award, the organization's most prestigious honor.
"I am thankful to the management at KET for the opportunity to host the program and for their support," Wellman said. "I would also like to thank all of the journalists who appeared on the program for being willing to share their expertise and insight. And most of all, thanks to the loyal viewers for their support."
Wellman made his first appearance on Comment on Kentucky in 1976. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the series.