Life in the Box: Character Profiles
Eric Hanson hopes his stories are contagious, and I hope so, too. Hanson is a morning news anchor for CBS affiliate KCCI-TV, Des Moines. As Iowan as tall corn, Hanson has worked at KCCI for 15 years, most of the time as a general assignment reporter.
While he’s done his share of town council meetings, crime scenes, and weather reports by the side of the road, he has also been given the leeway to produce meaningful stories about Iowa characters.
And, since November of 2013, his special features have a series title, “This is Iowa.” The stories air on Monday nights during the 6PM news show, and are promoted vigorously on the air.
“I want people to feel and care about these stories,” Hanson says. “I base each story on a person, someone that people can identify with.”
His topics range widely. For instance, a small-town football team that cheers on a Downs Syndrome player; a woodworker that obsessively carves out toys for hospitalized children; and an Iowa Boy Scout who fights poverty in Africa.
Some of his common themes are kindness and generosity, not the usual fare for a local news show. They stand out warmly against the daily backdrop of reports about crime, greed, and violence.
Hanson writes and voices the stories, using travel time to make succinct notes after each shoot. “And, the storytelling is a co-production with the videographers, who not only shoot the stories intuitively, but also edit the pieces together.” His three main videographers, Glen Biermann, Cortney Kintzer and Mike Sims, are all long-time KCCI videographers, and Hanson says they are all on the same wavelength.
“My boss is supportive, and the public responds well to these stories, too. I have to say most of my really great story ideas come from the public,” Hanson says.
Even with all the accolades and awards his stories have won, Hanson continues to hone his skills by watching videos online made by some of his favorite television storytellers, whom I’ve listed, below.
I asked Eric Hanson if he thinks his stories about Iowa characters and their acts of kindness will somehow change the world. He says there can be a ripple effect when people watch others doing good things. He hopes the viewers will be encouraged to either support those good works, or be inspired to start doing something themselves.
Watching people with a passion for creating something can be contagious. I’m catching that bug by listening to Eric Hanson tell his tales, while I’m interviewing him on the phone and while viewing his stories on the air. May this atypical contagion keep spreading!
Nancy Heather Brown is an Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, and editing for more than four decades. Today, she uses gems from this treasure trove of life stories to add sparkle to her reflections on the creative process both inside and outside the box.