How an Old School Dallas Sports Anchor Became New Again

By Kevin Eck 

WFAA sports anchor Dale Hansen has been making the viral circuit lately for airing his thoughts on everything from homophobia to the local NFL team signing a player accused of domestic violence.

Hansen, who started at the Dallas ABC affiliate in 1983, sounds like he’s more likely to be found at a local bar than the newsroom, 30 minutes before air. So why, in this era of obsessing over The Millennials, are his “Unplugged” segments taking off on sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy?

Grantland has an interesting take:

The Hansen content mix — liberal smackdowns, brave confessionals, kids in peril — may sound strangely familiar. That’s because it’s exactly the kind of sharable content that populates the “soft” sections of sites like BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and Upworthy. Not coincidentally, those are the sites that discovered Hansen, aggregated him as they would Jon Stewart or John Oliver, and delivered him to a new audience.

A land bridge had formed between old and new media. What Hansen offered the web was gravitas and gray hair. His friend Mike Fisher noted that some measure of Hansen’s fame is based on a mistaken impression that he’s a former tea partier rather than a liberal whose heart has bled since the ’60s. Hansen also has a knack for taking a position that just about every lefty agrees with and stating its case in pithy, local-news style — like Stewart with less sarcasm. “He says what people are thinking, but it’s much more eloquent and gets to the point quicker,” said George Riba, a former Channel 8 sports reporter.

The irony of the Internet’s embrace of Hansen is that Hansen is willfully ignorant of digital media. He still uses a flip phone. According to Channel 8 sports director Sean Hamilton, in the late ’90s Hansen complained that he was no longer getting letters in the mail from viewers. Hamilton informed Hansen that he had a public email account. When Hansen checked it, it contained 1,000 unread messages.

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