Tell me about the "Mary Hanson Show."
We've been told that it's the longest running cable TV show in the Midwest now. We have been taping weekly shows since 1980. The show focuses on social and health issues, so we might talk about teenage pregnancy one week, aging parents another week, and HIV the following week. The guests are experts from the Midwest, primarily from the Twin Cities.
What has kept you producing the show for so long?
I started working in communications in 1978 producing and hosting a radio show and didn't have any long-range goals at all, but I have just enjoyed it so much. I think digging into a new topic and getting to meet new people every week keeps it fresh. I also think the show has made a difference for some people, and that keeps me going as a producer.
You are noted for your interviewing style. Do you have any secrets on how you conduct interviews?
Thank you, John! I think a LOT about the interview beforehand. I put in about 10 hours just reading and thinking before I do an interview. I try to really learn as much as I can about the topic. But I also realize that a viewer, just flipping through the channels, hasn't had this opportunity, so I pull back and wonder what someone who doesn't know about the topic would want to know - and try to ask those questions. And then I feel that I need to listen hard to the guest and not assume that I know where he or she is going. This listening actually frees me up, and I almost forget that the cameras are rolling.
Your crew has been working with you for some time. Could you talk about their importance?
I have a fantastic crew led by Floyd Child, the director. He has worked on the show for about 10 years. He came on board when we were at the old MTN studio on Plymouth Avenue. Most of the others: Keith Hedgecock, Leah Colvin-Roy, Mildred Collier, Terri Chouanard, Janna Steidl, and Roger Bevis, have also worked on the show for years. I am lucky to have a crew that approaches the show as professionals and believe in it. I was on Fox 29 for a
few years, but the staff there did not do as good a job as the crew I have now. The Channel 29 crew didn't care as much; it was just a job for them. If it were not for my crew, there would not be a show; we operate as a team.
What is it about public access cable that draws you and keeps you here?
I think public access cable is a tremendously important part of society. Someone once defined it as an electronic soapbox, and I think the freedom for people to put their ideas and projects before a larger audience is priceless. It allows for real democratic sharing of ideas and philosophies. I just believe in it in the most pure kind of way.
Do you have any advice for other people doing public access shows?
My advice is to keep things as simple as you can in the beginning. I think so often people who want to do public access or make a documentary have wonderful ideas, but those ideas are pretty complex plans at first. They get started and realize how much work it will take. They burn out or get disillusioned because they can't see the end of the tunnel. So I urge people to start with simple kinds of sets and simple goals and build as they go.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I'd like to thank the MTN staff because they have made working in cable fun. I've always felt that the MTN staff is a great source of ideas and assistance, and that's been wonderfully helpful. Producers don't get this if they're totally independent in the big world.
Secondly, I would also urge hospitals and businesses like insurance companies and law offices to consider public access television as a vehicle to spread more information and to get more involved in the community. I think our community, our state, would be much richer if more organizations got involved.
The Mary Hanson Show is on MTN Channel 17 on Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. It is also on the Metro Cable Network, Channel 6, on Monday nights at 9 p.m., and it is on public television's Channel 17, KTCI, again this summer on Sundays at 5 p.m.