Dan Hanger – Local News Anchor Shares his Duluth Story
For well-known local news anchor Dan Hanger, Duluth hasn’t always been home. He moved to the Twin Ports from Chicago in 2006, after landing a job at local NBC affiliate KBJR-6. He’s been captivated with the area ever since.
“I drove up for my interview at KBJR, and at that time, all I knew was the big city and the suburbs of Chicago,” he said. “I saw Duluth’s huge hills and the lake, and I said, ‘Oh my God; what did I get myself into?’ I had pictured some cornfield, and thought it would be a dinky little place.”
Ultimately, the Twin Ports grew on him, and Hanger decided to make his home here. “I thought I’d only be here for 6 months,” he said. “And now I’m at the point where I might stay forever. Quality of life is huge here. There’s no traffic, and Duluth has everything, for the most part, a big city has to offer.”
Growing up in Chicago
Hanger grew up in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb 20 minutes outside of Chicago. His father, Jim Hanger, worked as a firefighter and police officer. His mother, Charissee Caputo, worked for the local parks and recreation department. Hanger has one sibling; a younger sister, Krystle (36).
Hanger’s self-professed obsession with the TV news industry started early in life. “It started out with weather,” he explained. “I’ve always been fascinated with storms. I begged my dad for tornado-chasing videos.”
But as he continued watching local news, he became interested in everything the industry had to offer, including lighting, set design, logos, music, and on-air talent. At age 12, he boldly e-mailed local NBC news affiliate WMAQ-TV, with critiques on their newscast, and advice on how to improve.
The woman who replied to that e-mail, Diana Borri, was impressed with Hanger’s chutzpah. Years later, Borri helped hire him, and she remains his professional mentor to this day.
Hanger eventually got the opportunity to tour the news station, and saw all the people he had admired for years, up close and personal. “It was like Disneyland to me – no joke,” he said.
Ultimately, Hanger decided to pursue broadcast journalism and earned a degree from Columbia College Chicago in 2005.
Younger years in journalism
Over the years, Hanger has held several roles in the industry. He was first hired as an unpaid web intern at CBS-2/WBBM TV in Chicago. Later, Borri helped hire him as a “web hub editor” at WMAQ, where he stayed through his junior and senior years of college. And, he loved every minute of it. “I was obsessed,” he said. “I just loved being in the newsroom.”
After college graduation, Hanger posted his résumé on the website tvjobs.com, and was pleased to land job interviews in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Duluth, Minnesota. After his interview at KBJR, he “got an offer on the spot,” and moved to Superior in 2006.
While at KBJR, Hanger was first a “one-man band,” where he handled the reporting, photography, writing, and editing of his news stories. He was promoted to news anchor in 2007.
But the days were long, Hanger was young, and he was having perhaps a bit too much fun going out with his new friends. One day he overslept; a cardinal sin for a morning news anchor.
After two years, he was let go from KBJR. Hanger, flooded with shame and embarrassment, wondered what to do next.
He worked on some freelance projects for a time, followed by a sales and marketing job at Townsquare Media. He even sold cars at Miller Hill Subaru. “I sold a used car to my friend, and definitely sold less than five total,” he said with a chuckle. “After a while, though, I asked myself, ‘What am I doing with my life?’”
Hanger dreamed of getting back into the news business. Ultimately, he got his chance; a reporter position opened up at FOX-21/KQDS-TV. He was hired in 2010 and became an anchor in 2011.
With hard work, dedication, and deep gratitude for second chances, Hanger has continued moving up the ladder at the station. Today, he holds the prestigious three-prong title of anchor/reporter/producer and loves his work. Hanger also speaks highly of his boss, news director Steve Goodspeed, as well as his longtime news director before that, Dan Clouse.
“I’m so interested in stuff,” he said. “I want to get the truth for people. I feel I’m fair and upfront, and having built connections and trust, I can get stories done fast. I want to make an impact.”
Hanger also firmly believes that his honesty and authenticity help him connect with his audience. “People are so genuine here,” he noted. “They aren’t about showing off.”
Viewers can catch Hanger anchoring the FOX-21 evening newscasts on weekdays, at 5:30 and 9:00 pm.
Awards and Volunteering
Throughout his career, Hanger has received three Eric Sevareid awards for excellence in journalism; in 2011, 2017, and 2019. Giving back to the community is also important to him.
Hanger regularly volunteers his time as an emcee for a variety of charitable events, including the Animal Allies Fur Ball, the Duluth Art Institute’s Masquerade Gala, and the Northern Lights Foundation’s Children’s Charity Gala.
He has also done plenty of volunteer fundraising for Duluth’s Polar Plunge, which benefits Special Olympics athletes. His efforts have produced a fruitful $14,664 for the cause since 2012.
Hanger also served as Grand Marshall for the Duluth-Superior Pride Festival in 2015, along with his FOX-21 colleague and then co-anchor, Diane Alexander. Hanger, who is gay, said, “I don’t really like labels, but I feel it’s important for me to use my voice whenever I can to help the LGBTQ community.”
Hanger currently lives in Superior with his beloved dog, Brewster, a 12-year-old terrier/boxer mix he adopted from the Hibbing Humane Society. The two first became acquainted while Hanger was on assignment.
Hanger is also a big fan of the local art/music/theater scene and enjoys cooking and brewery culture. He holds surprisingly high regard for Duluth’s pizza options; an impressive compliment from a Chicago native.
“I’m shocked at how many places here have authentic pizza,” he said. “I love Sammy’s, Vitta Pizza, Pizza Luce, and Thirsty Pagan. Every time my Chicago friends come up, I take them out for pizza.”
Hanger, who is currently single, has always felt that his lifestyle has been accepted in the Twin Ports. “In Duluth, I felt like you really needed to … keep your tie straight … back in 2006,” he said. “But if you look at Duluth today, you can be open anywhere and everywhere. I thought I’d be the only gay person when I came here in 2006. But Duluth is a really progressive city for its size.”
Hanger’s future goals include paying off debt, purchasing a home of his own (with a yard), and traveling. He also wants to spend more time with his niece, Maci, and nephew, Cole.
Despite growing up in Chicago, with everything the big city life has to offer, Hanger has planted roots in the Twin Ports.
“Duluth is home to me,” he said. “Going back to Chicago doesn’t feel like home anymore. After all, I’ve grown up here. I’ve made my mistakes here. And, I’ve found myself here.”