More About the Author
Hanson has strayed from a traditional career path more often than not. He abandoned his undergraduate business degree two years in, to pursue law at McGill University in Montreal, and afterward in Paris. He passed the New York Bar exam just in time to go to journalism school at Columbia University, where he was hired by NBC News a couple of weeks before graduation -- thereby short-circuiting any career in law.
Hanson spent a heady few years as a producer for Tom Brokaw's show in New York City, and then managed to get assigned to NBC's Tel Aviv bureau. It was an exciting, productive period, where he enjoyed looking for "light in the darkness" as a storyteller, as well as experimenting with nascent digital output. He was one of the first contributors to MSNBC.com upon its launch, and started playing with accessible digital tools as soon as they became available. That's ultimately what got him into trouble as he wanted to pursue the use of these new technologies at NBC. The network wasn't quite ready to be so cutting edge.
So despite winning Emmy and Overseas Press Club Awards for his work in Kosovo, along with a stock option award from NBC, he left his position at The Peacock and joined Canada's CBC as an on-air reporter. Although he had the choice of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, Hanson ultimately chose to create a one-man news bureau in Kelowna, British Columbia, where he learned how to shoot and edit his own stories.
Unable to convince CBC that he should be sent to Iraq in 2003, he readily accepted a six month assignment from his former employers at NBC, as they were looking for small teams to be embedded with the US military prior to their Persian Gulf campaign. That's when he created HRH Media, and NBC became his first client. In this capacity, he reported for the U.S. network starting from Bahrain, traveling through Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, appearing live more than 500 times for MSNBC, CNBC, CBC and Global TV. He was also embedded with the Navy's Fifth Fleet aboard the flagship U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, with the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf, and with the Army's 1st Cavalry in Baghdad.
It was that last, perilous assignment in Iraq in 2004 that Hanson concluded that it was time to pursue what had originally inspired him to leave NBC -- to tell authentic stories through accessible digital technologies. Did we really need to work for a behemoth such as a TV network to communicate effectively and persuasively to people we didn't know? Hanson forced himself to answer that question when both PBS and Discovery Channel declined to fund his documentary film idea: a road trip that he and his wife Heather would take across the United States to document what he thought was a growing insurgency against corporate chain retail. Without this institutional support, they still took to the road, armed with a new HD video camera, a laptop and a desire to build a supportive community around the film, by sharing even as they were producing it (this was before the widespread launch of YouTube and Facebook). Independent America: The Two-Lane Search for Mom & Pop was the turning point in Hanson's career, as its success online, on TV and in communities around America crystallized his vision that individuals and organizations could now serve as trusted sources of information through story and digital distribution.
This success led him to Seattle, where he became an "accidental academic" -- applying his experience and knowledge as the newly-minted Director of the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington. Since then, Hanson has grown this graduate program three-fold, expanded its influence worldwide, produced the award-winning documentary Rising from Ruins, written the book Storyteller Uprising, hosted TEDx Seattle, co-founded Four Peaks, and produced two wonderfully rambunctious children with Heather. If, as Aristotle observed, all stories have three acts, this is a very satisfying middle.