An Exclusive Look Into the Global Success of TV Journalist Chris Hansen
Chris Hansen, TV Journalist & Author
We all know the lines we can recite by heart. “What is it exactly that you were planning on doing here today?” Even more popular, “Why don’t you have a seat right over there.” He’s transcended journalism. Now residing in that ever elusive place in the American psyche. He’s part of our pop culture. There are so many vacuous & talentless people who reside in that space. You tend to lump them in the same talentless category. Sometimes you forget that others landed there because of their prodigious talent. That’s what he is. A prodigious talent. He had me. Sitting there in a restaurant in Stamford, CT. I was putty in his hands. He could have told me anything, and I would have believed him. He could have pulled a confession out of me. I had to snap myself out of it. “Holy shit, Chris that’s the best story I’ve ever heard in my life.” He chuckled, but he didn’t stop me from gushing. He knows he’s good at this. He alluded to his power to elicit a confession from anyone he encounters. Here he shifts gears, and shares a story about his son. Something about how his son attempted to fib to him about a stolen bottle of booze from the family liquor cabinet. Standard teenage high jinx. But when your Dad is Chris Hansen? Nothing standard about that interrogation. I find myself feeling compassion for his son. Poor kid didn’t stand a chance!
Is it just his voice? It’s part of it for sure. Maybe it was the years of experience as a journalist. Knowing what combination of voice + inflection + plus pregnant pause will make people lean in. The lead in for his story while we were sitting at that table sounded scripted. It sounded like it should have been a voice over to a special mini-series. I felt transported. Best story teller I’ve ever met. Ever. He should be the best story teller, shouldn’t he?
Chris Hansen is many things. A cultural icon. An award winning journalist. For sure. He’s also a decent guy. An infinitely curious guy. I admire curiosity. I admire people who stay in motion. Those who don’t rest. On either laurels or reputation. That’s not Chris. He’s a land shark. Always moving so he can breathe.
He’s an old school guy with an infinite respect for the new school. It’s the reason why he will remain relevant in our culture for years to come.
Chris Dessi: Over lunch you once mentioned to me that you didn’t wear a tie on the set of “To Catch a Predator.” You explained that you were concerned that one of the perpetrators may grab you by your tie. I found this fascinating, but it also begs the question – have you ever been afraid for your life while working on story?
Chris Dessi: Many people have the intellect. Many more have the looks. What is it that has separated you from the crowd? I guess what I’m trying to say is – what one skill or trait do you feel has contributed most to the success you’ve seen in your life?
Chris Hansen: Looks don’t hurt, but I think it’s my voice that is most distinctive. You need to separate yourself from the crowd. I do it with my interview style. I listen. I don’t look at a question list. I get into someone’s mind. If I am exhausted after an interview, I know I have done a good job.
Chris Dessi: We’ve joked about your perfectly quaffed hair. You’re a handsome guy. Looks are part of the job – but how do you react to some anchors that look more like models than journalists?
Chris Dessi: You’re interviewed some dangerous people – pedophiles, drug lords, corrupt politicians. Have any of them surprised you? Like, have you thought to yourself “boy, if this guy went another direction we could have been pals.”
Chris Dessi: Who has been the most fascinating person you’ve ever interviewed, and why?
Chris Dessi: When was the first time you took a step back and said “yeah, I’ve made it.” You’re famous. You’ve seen monetary reward for your work. You’ve won SEVEN Emmy Awards. That list equates to the definition of success in our society. How do you personally define success? Has the fame, money, and awards, ever clouded that definition?
Chris Hansen: I am still trying to “make it” but I think being stopped in the street or in an airport of restaurant by someone who saw one of my shows. My sons have always had a father on TV, so it’s no big deal for them, but when i was parodied on South Park……suddenly I had made it in their eyes.and just for the record its EIGHT Emmys! My definition of success is that I get to do what I really love and I actually get paid for it. 34 years into the business and I still love it, still love the competition and the drive the stay ahead of the quickly evolving nature of what I do and how I do it.
Chris Hansen: I’m sorry did you say something? Ha. Anyone can be a blogger these days and say whatever they want about you at any time. They don’t have to follow the rules I follow. When I write something about someone I talk to them to get their side of the story. That basic fundamental fairness has bee lost in many corners of digital media. Thick skin? Look if you play in the NFL you are going to take some hits and some cheap shots.
Chris Hansen: I am very fortunate to have strong mentors. Anchormen Bill Bonds in Detroit from the age of 16 and Howard Lancour in Lansing most notably. Wouldn’t be where I am without them.
Chris Dessi: What is the on-air moment you’re most proud of?
Chris Hansen: The proudest moment on air is when everyone at NBC during 911 managed to keep their composure and report under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. It wasn’t work, it was a mission.
Chris Dessi: What do you think your 12 year old self would say to you today?
Chris Hansen: Cool car man! 2014 Corvette. Still just a motor head from Detroit.
Chris Dessi: You’re a recognizable guy around the globe. What’s the oddest place someone has recognized you?
Chris Hansen: Cheng Mai, Thailand. An american in a hotel recognized my and broke into a sweat. While he wasn’t the target of our investigation, I suspect he was up to no good.
Chris Dessi: You have a degree from Michigan State. What do you say to those who believe that college is a waste of money?
Chris Hansen: Go to college…..though I think many would be served better by 2 years of community college and work before going to University. More affordable and a lot of kids would be more focused.
Chris Dessi: Dan Rather or Peter Jennings?
Chris Hansen: Jennings
Chris Dessi: Best journalist you’ve ever met?
Chris Hansen: Mike Wallace
Chris Dessi: What five words would your children use to describe you?
Chris Hansen: My dad is Chris Hansen
Chris Dessi:Favorite movie?
Chris Hansen: North By Northwest
Chris Dessi: Who is your hero?
Chris Hansen: Tom Brokaw
Chris Dessi: Funniest person you know?
Chris Hansen: Dan Dietz
Chris Dessi: Worst day of your life?
Chris Hansen: The day my Father passed away.
Chris Dessi: Best day of your life?
Chris Hansen: When my sons were born.
Chris Dessi: Who should play you in a movie?
Chris Hansen:: Bradley Cooper or Dennis Leary
Chris Dessi: What is your favorite word?
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