You can cover a lot of territory in 35 years and still just barely scratch the surface. I'm reminded of something the writer Ernest Hemingway once said: "A helluva lot of state, this Idaho, that I didn't know about."
And with more than 60% of it public land, there's a good chance none of us will ever visit all of the state's impressive landscapes. It's just that vast.
If Outdoor Idaho ever does fold up its tent, it certainly won't be because we've run out of story ideas or places to visit. Just the public policy challenges alone - wolves, wilderness, weeds, water, timber wars, wild fires - could keep us busy for a couple years.
In our hour-long "35th Anniversary Special," we focus on some of those issues.
We also take you behind the scenes, as every Anniversary show must do. My colleague Sauni Symonds has been working on that segment. In many ways, it will be the heart of our program, giving my colleagues behind the camera a chance to shine.
They also get to recap some of their favorite interviews out of the 300 or so shows we've chronicled over the years.
Last month we asked our viewers on social media to comment on what the show has meant to them, and they responded. Talk about a fascinating and humbling experience! We made that a part of our show also.
I'm often asked why Outdoor Idaho has survived and thrived for so long. I think there are several factors, including strong support from our general managers over the years and a willingness from our development folks to search out grants and underwriting.
Couple that with a close-knit group of people who still enjoy working together; a commitment to only tackle shows that someone on staff really cares about; and an attempt to populate each program with real Idahoans, who can help shine a light on their part of the state. "We tell Idaho's stories" is actually in our Mission Statement; we take it seriously, but we get a lot of help from the ones we interview.
And then there's the state itself. Geologically, Idaho is so impressive! The influence that her mountains and valleys and rivers exert on our staff hopefully shines through every episode. I know our team works hard to capture that natural beauty; and I think viewers appreciate the extra effort, especially when we climb to the top of a 12,000 foot peak, or descend hundreds of feet into a limestone cave, or hike 20 miles into the wilderness, just to get the shot.
The show has always been willing to re-invent itself. Everyone who has worked on Outdoor Idaho has brought something new to the mix, and it has allowed the show to grow and change for 35 years. But it has always remained essentially a labor of love.
There aren't too many things that can unite a complicated state like Idaho. (The joke is that we have three capitals: Boise, Spokane, and Salt Lake City.)
Maybe that's what Outdoor Idaho has been doing best of all these past 35 years… helping to connect our geographically challenged state. At least, that's what many viewers zeroed in on when we asked them what the show has meant to them.
I guess that's not a bad peg to hang your hat on. Thanks for watching.
Sauni Symonds, Outdoor Idaho's lead producer, asked me the other day to describe what kind of shows I produce. We talked about it for a while, but the first word that came to my mind was "fun." I have produced serious public affairs or science-oriented programs for Outdoor Idaho, but if I can, I'll jump on the chance to produce a show that is fun. And putting together "Jobs Without Walls" was fun.
Now fun doesn't mean I didn't have to work hard to create the show. I tried very hard to find profile subjects from around the state whose jobs are a bit unusual. We did a lot of traveling and I was lucky to work with some wonderful videographers: Jay Krajic, Chuck Cathcart, Pat Metzler and Aaron Kunz. Jay also did a great job editing the show. He is extraordinarily talented.
My producing-partner-in-crime on this show was John Crancer. He is responsible for the piece about mail carrier captain James Wesley Jones. John did such a nice job that I put his piece first. I produced the rest of the show, and I can tell you, producing each segment had its ups and downs, in some case literally.
Jay Krajic and I got to fly with Alesia Coulson, our Life Flight helicopter pilot and her crew. I never get tired of seeing the sights of the Sandpoint area from the air. It is so beautiful.
Our jet boat trip filming with Steve Zanelli in Hells Canyon was equally beautiful and a bit bumpier. Still, one can never complain when your assignment is to go spend the day on a jet boat in Hells Canyon. Steve is a skill jet boat pilot and makes the job look so easy. I've been around long enough to know it isn't. Steve and Alesia both shared family pictures with us to make the profiles more complete. I appreciated their kindness in sharing the precious memories with all of us. I also appreciated the folks at Idaho Power who made the trip happen and for all the historical footage they provided.
Carla Rebernak was our most reluctant interviewee, which is odd because she did so well. Jay and I trailed behind Carla except when she sped off on her motorcycle. Jay could keep up, but I wisely decided enjoying the shade of a nearby tree was a better use of my time.
For me, the unsung heroes of our piece about Chris Niccoli and the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree were the videographers. When we were filming the first parts of this piece, I got very sick. Pat and Chuck had to carry on without me and did well. But my greatest appreciation goes to Aaron Kunz, my videographer who went to Washington, D.C., with me to film the lighting of the tree. On the day of the ceremony, the television crews need to be in place hours before the ceremony starts. We knew that in order to get a good place we had to be early. We got there just in time to stand out in the bitter cold, driving wind, and pouring rain. As you can see from the set up in the picture, there wasn't much to protect us from the elements. It was a real challenge to keep the equipment dry, let alone the producer and videographer. After a couple of hours, I started turning blue. Aaron, being the gentleman he is, sent me off to get out of the rain for an hour, and he stood guard. When I came back to give him a break, the U.S. Capitol security folks sent everyone away so the dogs could sniff everyone's equipment and make sure all was well, so both of us had a chance to get warm.
The lighting ceremony was exciting and Chris Niccoli and all the folks from the Payette National Forest were a joy, but I think both Aaron and I were glad to get back to the hotel and to dry clothes.
Aaron also did a very nice job editing the piece we produced for the PBS Newshour. You can see that here. (link to story)
I haven't yet figured out what my next "fun" assignment will be for Outdoor Idaho. If you have a suggestion, send it to me. Meanwhile, enjoy the show.