My first television job back in 2000 was at WCYB. I was the weekend producer as part of my duties there at the time and it gave me the opportunity to work with, and learn from, Karen Jenkins.
I will fail at emphasizing this enough, but suffice it to say, the word driven does not do this lady justice. For example, she once wanted to willingly walk into a forest fire as a reporter to get the story. I was the camera man who tagged along on that one and she was right, the story and video were remarkable. That is just one of many times she inspired me in my career. I know she will inspire you too. Here is a brief career history and then take a minute to meet my friend Karen.
Karen Jenkins has been in the Tri-Cities on and off for more than 20 years now. First working as a news reporter fresh out of Ohio University for WJHL, Karen jokes she “tried to escape” twice, leaving for news jobs in Dayton, Ohio, and Nashville before coming back again. The last time she returned, about a decade ago, she ended up staying. She’s also worked at WCYB and has been Director of Public Relations for the last eight and a half years at the area’s largest advertising agency, Creative Energy.
BRIAN: First off, you are a busy person; thank you for taking time to be interviewed. Your roots were not from here originally. Will you talk about where you grew up and what that was like?
KAREN: Although I grew up just outside of Dayton, Ohio, my roots are actually here—in Southwest Virginia. My mom is from a small coal-mining camp (Exeter) in Wise County, and my dad grew up in Jonesville. They both moved north to find work in the ’50s, but I’ve been coming here to visit family my whole life. When looking for my first job in television news, I thought this would be a good place to start since it was a smaller market, but near family. I’ll be honest and say I never thought I’d still be here 20-some years later, but that’s just the way it worked out and that’s OK!
BRIAN: Once you ended up in the Tri-Cities, you knew there was something different about this place and these people. What is it that makes you love it here so much?
KAREN: Of course the area was familiar to me growing up and it’s certainly a nice place to raise a family. I’ve always loved being on a lake and that’s one of my favorite things about this area. I really look forward to the day that Boone Lake is back to full levels so we can enjoy it again as a family.
BRIAN: We can’t talk about this area and not touch on faith. I know you, and your faith plays a role in everything you do. Tell folks a little about that.
KAREN: Of course. I was one of those kids who was in church every time the doors were open, and I accepted Christ as my savior at an early age. I appreciate my parents raising me in a Christian home, and as an adult my faith has grown through the good times and bad. I hope to provide that same foundation for my kids; but I’ll admit life is so much busier now, I think it’s more challenging for parents. There’s a lot more “stuff” to get in the way, but I feel it’s one of my most important callings to make sure my kids are also raised in a Christian home. I hope they see that, to me, there’s more to life than work. There’s being a servant to others through charity and giving back to our community and showing God’s love to others. That’s why in the past I’ve enjoyed working with charities like Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Kari’s Heart Foundation and CASA. I’m certainly not perfect at that, but I hope to always point them to the One who is.
BRIAN: I saw an online posting about your wedding anniversary recently and I have watched the Jenkins boys grow up from a distance. How important is family to you?
KAREN: This year Jamie and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage. Who would have thought it when I met him as a reporter and he was a Carter County Deputy on a drug bust all those years ago. Family is extremely important to both of us, and we’ve always told our kids that whatever they dream of, we’ll try to help them achieve it if they are willing to work at it. In addition to one adult daughter we have three boys at home who keep us busy, busy, busy with their academics and athletics.
BRIAN: When it comes to work, I have never had the pleasure of working with anybody who has the drive and self-motivation you possess. Creative Energy is the beneficiary of those gifts these days. How can people find out what is going on with your work?
KAREN: Thank you. Fortunately, the things I’ve chosen to do for pay involve God-given skills that I possess—mainly being a good communicator. If your child is one who frequently gets moved for talking too much in school, don’t worry—there’s hope he or she can be a reporter or public relations professional! I’m proud to work for Creative Energy, and in the time I’ve been there we’ve nearly doubled in size and taken on some pretty big clients like Coca-Cola, Texas Pete Hot Sauce, Pal’s Sudden Service, General Shale and more. I’m also excited that I have my real-estate license and I’m now working part-time for Evans & Evans. I love helping people achieve their dream of home ownership. Don’t ask me where I find the time, but I’m always willing to go look at houses with someone.