PBS ‘Wild Side’ takes viewers to Tennessee’s natural wonders
Released on April 4, 2019
Lee Zimmerman, Special to the USA TODAY NETWORK – TennesseePublished 2:02 p.m. ET Jan. 23, 2017
Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in East Tennessee do so for a very good reason. We appreciate the scenery, the wide range of activities and a wonderful way of life.
Still, in the frenzy of our jobs,chores and responsibilities, it’s easy to lose sight of our many assets. Fortunately, East Tennessee PBS offers the ideal antidote for anyone who tends to take those things for granted.
It comes in the form of “Tennessee’s Wild Side,” a program seen locally at 10 a.m. Saturday mornings. The show bills itself as an outdoor adventure show designed and developed for viewing by the entire family.
Hosted by veteran broadcaster Steve Hall and produced in cooperation with Nashville Public Television, “Tennessee’s Wild Side” takes viewers to remote areas of the state where natural wonders and recreational opportunities abound. Some of the locations it spotlights are well known, others less so.
Appropriately enough, the program is a family affair. Hall’s wife Annette is associate producer and one of the program guides, and their son Ezekiel also works on the show. The couple met in 1993 when they were news reporters for NBC affiliate WSMV-TV in Nashville.
Married in 1995, they left Nashville soon after, seeking a place where they could raise their son in a less hectic environment. Steve took a job as director of multi-media at The Jackson Foundation, a philanthropic organization in west Tennessee. Annette stayed home to raise Ezekiel and took up freelance work. That’s when the idea for the program originated.
“There are so many natural resources in Tennessee, as well as an unlimited number of outdoor adventures,” Steve says. “However, there was a void in the broadcast arena for showcasing these opportunities. We approached Nashville Public Television with the pilot, and they agreed to carry our show and offer it to other stations across the state.”
“Tennessee’s Wild Side” has garnered nine regional Emmy Awards in its 32 seasons and 17 years on the air, including the last 12 on East Tennessee PBS. The Halls recently parted ways with their original underwriters, the Jackson Foundation, but have reached an agreement that will allow them to continue producing the show under the aegis of their own production company, RockWater, LLC. Steve has taken over the hosting duties from the original hosts, Bill Cody and Janet Ivey, and they plan to film his segments on site rather than in the studio, as was done previously.
“The topics for ‘Wild Side’ are unlimited,” Steve says. “We try very hard to cover every corner of our state, as well as to offer stories that will be appealing to the different interests of our viewers. Outdoor adventure truly runs the gamut, from hiking and horseback riding, to kayaking, canoeing and camping…bird watching, rappelling, hunting, fishing, and photography. Then there are the harder-hitting segments we feel we have an obligation to cover, such as endangered species of animals, plants and insects in Tennessee, as well as land preservation and protection projects. We encourage viewers to write us with story ideas, and we also consult with the experts.”
“‘Tennessee’s Wild Side’ offers an entertaining way to inform and educate viewers about our local and statewide outdoor opportunities and natural resources,” says Russ Manning, director of programming for East Tennessee PBS. “The program helps to promote a healthier lifestyle for individuals and families. Viewers from sportsmen to moms have indicated how much they enjoy it.”
For the Halls, the show has become a full-time job and a family affair, although they also do documentaries and video projects for other businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition, Annette does ghost writing and offers her own Exclusive Equine Experiences for people with an interest in horses.
Currently, Tennessee State Parks is the show’s only sponsor, though the Halls are in search of additional sponsorships. Meanwhile, the couple themselves are committed to the cause. “Under the direction of WSMV’s President and General Manager Mike Kettering, we were both taught to hold all of our stories to a Caring Faith standard. It’s an acronym that stands for “Fair, Accurate, Informative, Thorough and Human.” Our goal is, and always has been, to produce television with passion and purpose. We believe that ‘Tennessee’s Wild Side’ meets those standards while it informs, inspires, and educates. Our long-range goal is to take the show beyond the borders of Tennessee into other states.”
If you have news or information for Media Watch, contact Lee Zimmerman at Lee@storiesbeyondthemusic.com