While everyone is familiar with the legendary team of Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons, Jane Hanson‘s tenure at WNBC actually predates Sue’s remarkable reign.
Until she was unceremoniously fired in 2006 after 27 years at the station. She was most prominently co-anchor on Today in New York from 1988 to 2003.
“It just ended abruptly one day,” Hanson recalls. “I had no agent, I had nobody looking for anything for me in television … There was a signal from the universe or whomever that my time on TV was up, and that was ok.”
As Hanson was coming to the realization that she might not find work again in TV, her former company was busy making deep cuts in personnel.
In some ways she became the trailblazer for what was to come. Beginning in 2008, WNBC axed several familiar anchors and reporters, while putting resources into the upstart 24-hour digital channel New York Nonstop.
“The faces have changed but I don’t think the commitment to the community and the news has changed at all,” Hanson admits.
Hanson’s retirement plans were placed on hold, as last year she was sought out by WNBC to join their afternoon lifestyle show LX New York.
“That was probably one of the weirdest experiences, because it was the first time I walked back at 30 Rock,” Hanson tells FishbowlNY.
Initially, when Hanson was interviewed by LX honcho Morgan Hertzan, she balked.
“My biggest hurdle is I truly don’t know if I want to do TV again,” Hanson recalled.
But after the show’s senior executive producer (and longtime friend) Amy Rosenblum cajoled her—a week later Hanson relented.
“What have I got to lose by trying?” Hanson thought.
So Hanson, a multiple Emmy Award winner, decided to take the LX gig, but not before giving herself a two-week trial during the 2010 Winter Olympics—starting on Monday, February 15.
(Helped by the fact that LX’s studios are across the Plaza at 75 Rock, Hanson is somewhat disconnected from her WNBC brethren.)
“I discovered I loved being back on TV,” Hanson says.
Even more so, Hanson realized how much she missed live TV.
“I really believe that that’s always been one of my strong points.”
Separately, the veteran anchor also enjoys conducting interviews, and on the lighter side, “I get to wear cute clothes,” Hanson laughs.
Beyond the personal reasons, the veteran anchor had a larger motivating factor for going back in front of the camera.
“I’m a woman over 50, and women over 50 are not necessarily welcomed on television,” Hanson admits. “I honestly thought this may be a really nice signal for women out there that you don’t have to be 35, or you don’t have to be 25. You can be over 50, go back on the air and actually have a voice.”
In a somewhat ironic twist, throughout the five months prior to Hanson joining to the show, the program had no voice. Critics (including this one) were very hard on the on-air staff and the look.
There was no chemistry between the hosts, including holdover Sara Gore.
In comes Hanson, providing exactly what an anchor is. From the get-go, she infused a professionalism and experience. It was clear to see from that point on, Hanson was the moon that the show was orbiting around.
Hanson, though, is quick to credit Rosenblum, who was hired a week before her, as the catalyst.
“She brought in a lot of experience and a lot of success. [Rosenblum is] a veteran of television programming,” Hanson says. “The whole combination is responsible for what’s happened.”
“Jane is the best writer,” Rosenblum counters. “…I just think what Jane brings is honesty and she’s just really smart, and she’s well-read. It’s unique.”
Additionally, Hanson enjoys working with the entire LX New York staff as their energy is contagious.
“We have an unbelievable team of editors and producers, and they’re all, for the most part, pretty young. But they’re just terrific because they’ve got that eagerness about them,” Hanson says. “They want to learn, and yet they’ve got the advantage of really knowing modern technology.”
“The show is so much fun because it’s a new energy, and people really talk about it,” Rosenblum, a veteran of several syndicated talk shows and the Today Show, says.
One of those young people is Hanson’s co-host, Gore.
“I think it’s got more points of view, because I look at things different than Sara does, for example, because we’re a different age,” Hanson says.
She says that is a main ingredient for the show’s turnaround.
“That might have been missing in the first part [of LX New York],” Hanson says. “Because it was a lot of young women that were kind of at the same stage of the game … Anytime you can add more to a television show I think it brings it more to life.”
Furthermore, Hanson, as viewers can attest, found instant chemistry with Gore.
“Sara’s a very likable and very sweet woman. She too has grown as the show has grown,” Hanson says. “I think we’re just seeing an evolution for all of us.”
The personable Hanson, 55, hasn’t just put her stamp on the show in front of the camera; she takes an active role behind the scenes as well.
“Amy and I are usually on the phone at about 7 o’clock in the morning. We have read the newspapers,” Hanson says. “We’re perusing what’s on the morning shows. We’re thinking, ‘What’s our audience going to love?’”
While LX New York would appear geared toward women with a heavy dose of gossip, fashion, and health tips, Hanson says not so fast.
“I have a lot of men that e-mail me, write to me, and talk to me about the show,” Hanson says.
Therefore, Hanson keeps the show as interesting and entertaining as possible to as diverse a group of viewers.
“We try to think about what is it about this program that will be a little bit different, because there’s a lot of choices are 5 o’clock at night,” Hanson admits.
Of course, that means going up against newscasts on every major station. Initial criticism was levied against WNBC for doing away with its trailblazing 5 p.m. newscast—Live at Five. Hanson, who was a fill-in anchor “hundreds of times” on Live at Five, thinks LX New York brings the newscast’s next generation.
“That show was the ‘go to’ show,” Hanson says. “And I’d like to think that’s kind of what we are now.”
Helping become a must-see TV destination are the many guests that pop up from pop culture.
“I think what the show lets you do is show more of you without it being crazy,” Hanson says. She points to Scarborough using more personality for the nightly 6 p.m. teases.
Hanson has more fond memories from her first stint at WNBC.
“For most of the time that I was there, it was the news leader in town, it really was, especially in our show in the mornings and the late news,” Hanson says.
Although LX New York is not a traditional newscast, Hanson does whet her news whistle with 90-second headlines, added to the program to capitalize on her strengths. Of course, when warranted, Hanson and the show will have no problem taking on more hard news.
“Some days the numbers are down, and the next day they are through the roof. You just have to stay with it and believe in your product,” Rosenblum says. “We’re just all really passionate about it.”
So Hanson, who started (and maintains) her own businesses since leaving WNBC, is still thrilled to go to work each day.
“I would love to do [LX New York] for a long period of time,” Hanson admits. “On the other hand, there’s also that kind of allure of other things that I might want to do.”
With just over a year under her belt at LX New York, Hanson summarizes her time with the broadcast.
“It is, to me, the perfect show for 5 o’clock at night … If you want straight news there’s a lot of places to go,” Hanson says. “You come here, and you’ve got news, but you’ve also got a lot of other stuff that surrounds it. I love that.”