By Gail L. Jenner
Getting to appear on national TV is not something I ever thought I’d do. The fact that I’ve now appeared four times on major television shows is pretty incredible. I have done a few Youtube videos and several radio interviews, including NPR’s “West Coast Live,” but nothing bigger than that – until....
The first time I was approached about appearing on a TV show was in 2011, for History Channel’s “How the States Got Their Shapes.” The producer had apparently “googled” about the State of Jefferson and because I’ve coauthored four regional books (three with Arcadia Publishing, one with Old American Publishing) on the history of the region, my name jumped up. It was really only a short blip on the show; sadly, the weather turned bad and Brian Unger had to return to the hotel because he had a cold and laryngitis! But it was still interesting, and the production crew fun was work to with, in spite of the rain.
My second foray into the limelight was on Oregon’s PBS series, “Oregon Experience,” produced by Kami Horton (who will be attending our WWW conference in October!). She, too, had come across my name in regards to the State of Jefferson – both the history of the area and the so-called “1941 rebellion.” She called and we had a great visit, then she and her crew came to the ranch. They taped me in a 2-hour interview and the film crew took some candid shots around the ranch; in addition, I was able to give them more locations and individuals who might be helpful. The program aired in November 2014 and, recently, it won a WWA Spur Award for the Best Documentary! I will be in Lubbock, TX, and will be accepting the award for Kami since she can’t attend this year’s WWA conference.
In December, I was also contacted by our Siskiyou County Museum director/curator. New to the area, when “Mysteries at the Museum” called up about coming to Yreka to view the State of Jefferson state symbol – a gold pan – she called and asked if I would appear, that she felt she couldn’t do the show. So, for the 3rd time, I was asked to speak about the history of the State of Jefferson and the 1941 movement. This time the interview was well over 2 hours. Again, it was a young and energetic film crew that had flown in to do the show. This show aired in March, and it’s been replayed several times now.
Lastly, I was flown to Montana in January to be interviewed about Charles E. Boles, aka Black Bart, the Poet Bandit, for a new series called “Legends & Lies,” produced by Bill O’Reilly and aired on Fox News as one of ten episodes about unique western figures. The researchers for this show also apparently found me via the internet. In 2008, I coauthored the first and only fictionalized biography of California’s most successful stage bandit, so my name apparently rose to the top of the search engine—which goes to show the impact of the internet!
The production company, Warm Springs, is located in Missoula and what a delightful crew. I was provided a wonderful suite for two nights; my flight was paid for and I was given a rental car plus a stipend. I was taken out to dinner one night with two of the crew members. The interview took place in a small “log cabin” outside of town; its windows were taped and darkened, and I sat in a small living room space after going over what would be expected of me. My contact person, Erin, had sent me a list of questions a week or two earlier that they had for me. I found the questions interesting, although we went well beyond those questions during the taped interview. It all went well, but lasted almost 4 hours. Afterwards I was exhausted. The show aired in May and has already been run three times.
All in all, whether these particular shows impact the sales of my books or not, this series of adventures has opened my eyes to the far-reaching power of our stories as well as the importance of marketing and building a platform that can lead to new opportunities.
Gail L. Jenner is a Past President of Women Writing the West. She has written four volumes about the State of Jefferson and two novels, Across the Sweet Grass Hills and Black Bart, the Poet Bandit. She is the wife of a fourth generation cattle rancher and lives on the family's historic farmstead.