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Oregon Field Guide

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Title: Oregon Field Guide  
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Oregon Field Guide

Oregon Field Guide
Format Documentary/News magazine
Created by Steve Amen
Presented by Steve Amen
Theme music composer Cal Scott[1]
No. of seasons 21
Executive producer(s) Steve Amen
Producer(s) Ed Jahn
Cinematography Todd Sonflieth
Nick Fisher
Michael Bendixen
Original channel KOPB-TV
Original run 1990 – present
External links

Oregon Field Guide is a weekly television program produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting focusing on recreation, the outdoors, and environmental issues in the state of Oregon. Part of the Oregon zeitgeist, it is produced and hosted by Steve Amen. Named for the field guides used to identify plants, animals, and natural phenomenon, the wide-ranging series covers Oregon natural history, outdoor recreation, conservation, agriculture, rural life, and other local subjects. Produced with deep narratives rather than short segments, 13 half-hour and one full-hour episodes are shown per year.[2][3]


Oregon Field Guide started as a partnership between Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.[4] It first aired in 1990 with the impact of drift netting for tuna on dolphins,[5][6] The show was kept during major state budget cuts in 2003 that affected OPB.[7][8] In that year, the show budget was $300,000, with about 60% from two corporate sponsors and funds collected through pledges.[7]

The show was narrated and produced by Jim Newman for 20 years.[2] Newman produced over 250 Oregon Field Guide segments, and was brought on when Steve Amen got the greenlight on the series.[2] Amen who was born in Wyoming in 1952 and attended Portland State University, receiving a degree in photography.[3][9][10][11] Amen produced an award-winning Frontline episode, titled "To The Last Fish", in 1991, and has had three hip replacements since the show began.[12][13][14]

While the show has been very popular, it was on the bubble for the first few seasons, and its form was compared to PM Magazine.[7][15][5][16] The show had a 6.1 rating in the Portland market in 1994, receiving a 9 share, meaning reruns of the show beat primetime programming from the commercial stations.[10] In 1995, the 10% rating share of Oregon Field Guide was the highest of any locally-produced PBS show in the nation, and The Oregonian called it "the crown jewel in OPB's otherwise lackluster record of locally produced programming."[17] In 1998, the show was the most-watched local TV series in the PBS system.[18]


The show received third place in "Outstanding Beat/In-Depth Reporting, Television" for a Society of Environmental Journalists Award. The award was for their long-term coverage of the Marmot Dam removal, and the award recognized the show:

To watch these stories was to be there in the moment, experiencing it as it happened. Simply beautiful storytelling. Oregon Field Guide showed us things this panel had never heard of. More important, this program did what documentaries do best. They made a point to stay after everybody else left. By doing that, they were able to report beyond the headlines and were able to prove everybody wrong.[19][20]

The show has won eight Regional Emmys.[21] One was in 1995 for the "outstanding informational series/magazine short format division",[22] and another in the "best public affairs special" in 1998 for their one-hour special titled "Willamette Water Quality".[23][24]

It also received two Golden Eagle awards from the Council on International Nontheatrical Events in 1994: one for an hourlong report on "Cleaning Up Hanford",[25] and the other for "Abuses of the 1872 Mining Law".[26] The latter report also received an honorable mention in the Public Affairs category of the Pacific Mountain Network's "Best of the West" awards in that year.[26]

Notable segments

Oregon Field Guide has filmed while diving in Spirit Lake, titled "Ecological Mysteries of Spirit Lake".[27][28] It showed the rebirth of the lake after the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

The unfiltered and pure water of the Bull Run watershed, has been featured in two seasons.[29] It has also covered near-extinct bighorn sheep and mountain unicycling,[17] and how Estacada High School students used Cycle Oregon's visit to raise funds for their school.[30]

The Silent Invasion

"The Silent Invasion", a year-long Oregon Invasive Species Council campaign studying the threats posed by invasive species in the state, finished with an Oregon Field Guide special in April 2008, produced and written by Ed Jahn.[31][32][33][34][35] It was funded by the Oregon Sea Grant, based at Oregon State University.[33] The ultimate goal of the special was to serve as a wake-up call about invasive species and to inspire citizens to take action.[36] Species documented included Scotch broom, Japanese eelgrass, Yellow star thistle, Spartina, and Quagga mussels.

The special won a silver baton level Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award in 2009.[37][38] The award jury was "struck by the boldness and courage of OPB to attack such issues and then to put resources against it."[37][38] It also received three Regional Emmys.[32]


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