Kris Millgate 

The broadcast journalist and author on grizzly bears, near-death experiences and the perils of talking about herself

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Kris Millgate

No proverbial moss grows under Kris Millgate's feet—even when she's laid up with an injury.

Last year, an errant hockey puck to her shin resulted in a titanium rod and three screws in her leg. The months of recovery interrupted the busy lifestyle of the Idaho Falls-based broadcast journalist. In addition to raising two children and distance-running, she operates Tight Line Media. The company produces video pieces for clients and media outlets, including Idaho Public Television.

Rather than slowing her down, the recuperation accelerated the writing of her memoir, My Place Among Men.

In the book, she details some of her most colorful stories out in the wild, including getting up close and personal with a grizzly bear, watching the collaring of a bighorn sheep go awry, and rescuing owls from outhouses.

Millgate spoke with IdahoPTV colleague Marcia Franklin about her book, and why talking about herself can sometimes be as challenging as dealing with the elements.

BW: With all you've got going on, why write a book?

KM: I would give presentations and people would start to ask about the behind-the-scenes stuff. You know, "What's it like to go nose-to-nose with a grizzly? What's it like to be the only woman in the woods?

They'd realize I was pretty open and pretty animated, and would talk about things that scientists don't. So when you're nose-to-nose with a grizzly, you're going to pee your pants. And a scientist isn't going to tell you that, but I will, because I know that's what happened to me.

Because people starting asking so much about what it was like to do what I do for a living...I decided that would be appropriate for a book.

BW: Speaking of peeing in your pants, just about every bodily function makes an appearance in your book.

KM: I'm not after shock value there. What I'm after is the reality of it. And sometimes the reality of a situation induces bodily functions. I guess I kind of went in the gutter to kind of show the reality side of it.

BW: It's pretty amazing what some men have said to you, or you've overheard in your headphones.

KM: Before I published, I had an agent tell me, an older white man, "This book will never publish, because you accept inappropriate behavior from men."

And I said, "Just because I don't walk away from my story doesn't mean I accept their behavior. How they are behaving is on them." If I walked away every time someone was inappropriate, I would never be able to do my job.

If you ever want to motivate me, you tell me "never" or "can't." The day he told me that I said, "That's it. I said I don't need one more man telling me that I can't do this."

BW: You crowdfunded the book, yes?

KM: We crowdfunded the front end and then the publisher said, "Oh, this is worthy." And to crowdfund, that meant I sold 750 copies of the book before it was even written.

BW: Why do you enjoy what you do so much?

KM: You're at the mercy of the weather and the wildlife and these people you don't know, and this strange land you might not know, so there's so much variety in it. I like variety, I like change.

BW: You talk about your personal life as well. There's some painful experiences in there.

KM: I was uncomfortable revealing those things, because as reporters we don't do that. I had to learn to put "I" in the story. I had to work really hard to dig that stuff out.

BW: I think one of my favorite parts was the story of the milk bin. It became a metaphor for you because when you were growing up, your family sometimes received donated milk.

KM: I love that you said that's your favorite part. Because it's my least favorite part. I'm most scared about people learning about the milk bin. People finding out that I had charity is the most mortifying. What I call myself at this point is "bravely scared." These are those dynamic moments that I love, those challenging moments.

BW: What are some of the changes you've seen in your career?

KM: There's this whole wave of shifting awareness that our natural resources do more than just industrialize and finance us. People will go into these landscapes now and sit with them as they are, versus, "Let's pull out all the minerals that have value." I find that really inspiring.

We recovered bald eagles. We are in the process of recovering grizzly bears. We will figure out how to recover salmon. And the fact that those kinds of significant changes are happening while we're here—that's pretty amazing to see.

BW: Have you ever had a near-death experience out there?

KM: I've never had a near-death [experience], but I think I have a different tolerance for near death.

BW: What's still left on the Kris Millgate "bucket list?"

KM: I would love to follow salmon from the ocean to Idaho, to make a film on that.

BW: What's your ultimate goal with the book?

KM: I felt like if I could talk about what it's like to do my job, regardless of what my gender is, maybe that would help other people realize that they too can feel comfortable outside.

BW: Did you have a role model?

KM: I love that question, and I wish I loved the answer for it. No. And I think that's why now I'm so willing to speak at schools or to groups. I would have given anything for someone to hold my hand to figure out how to do this, and I didn't have it. So I'm trying to be that hand-holder now.

Millgate will speak at The Rediscovered Bookshop on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m.; and at REI on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m.

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