'Nine Questions' with Editor Bryan Hanks
In a series of interviews leading up to the official launch of Neuse News on June 27, we are introducing you to the people behind the scenes of the endeavor. Bryan Hanks is an avid fan of community, sports, and writing. We hope you enjoy!
Neuse News: Why did you help launch Neuse News?
Bryan Hanks: After leaving the local newspaper after 14 years due to its lack of commitment and resources to quality news gathering, I thought about developing my own website to deliver a similar product. However, I realized pretty quickly it was an endeavor that was a little above my head since I’m not very business-oriented.
When B.J. Murphy approached me and said he was considering launching Neuse News, I was giddy. With his business acumen along with my award-winning journalism background and the ability to put together a great staff, I knew we could do something great in Kinston and Leonor County.
Name: Bryan Hanks
Birthplace: Sparta, N.C.
Education: North Wilkes High School (Hays, N.C.); Central Piedmont Community College; UNC Charlotte
Family: Molly Ringwald Hughes Hanks the Puppy Dawg; brother — Darrell, sisters — Susan and Stacy, girlfriend — Linda
NN: What about journalism excites you?
BH: The ability to share information with folks who might not otherwise be able to get that information is what drives me the most. Our constitution promises a free press and I think there some corporations — which own most media companies today — have lost sight of that simple but elegant premise. They’re more interested in making money for their shareholders instead of delivering a product that citizens need.
Nothing makes me happier than delivering a quality story — devoid of bias or favor — that captures the imagination of readers.
I fell in love with journalism more than 20 years ago when after I’d write a high school sports story, I’d visit the school’s office and it’d be cut out and hanging in that office. I also remember the first time I visited someone’s home and they had one of my articles hanging on a wall.
NN: Is there a difference between the philosophies of national/state media companies and local organizations?
BH: Absolutely! National/state companies are trying to attract the attention and eyeballs of much larger audiences while local organizations — like Neuse News, for instance — only care about their immediate community.
That’s what is killing “local” journalism, to be honest — you have faceless corporations based out of New York, Chicago, Dallas or Los Angeles that think they understand issues and how to provide coverage for Kinston, North Carolina and hundreds of other small communities throughout the United States. It doesn’t work. If I’m reading a Kinston- or Lenoir County-based product, I want to know about what’s going on in Kinston and Lenoir County, not about New Bern or Jacksonville or Wilmington.
NN: Kinston has become your adopted hometown; why?
BH: Before moving here, I’d lived all over North Carolina — from Wilkes County in the northwest portion of the state to Charlotte and then on to Kings Mountain and Shelby. Even when I moved to Kinston, my intent was to live here for a couple of years and then move on to the next rung in my career.
But I fell in love with Lenoir County. Ironically, it started when the West Pharmaceutical explosion happened in January 2003 — that was a tragedy that might have torn apart other communities but I feel like it brought Lenoir County together. I had heard stories about how the terrible hurricanes in the 1990s had not been able to kill this area’s spirit and when the West tragedy happened, I saw firsthand how bonded everyone here was and remains today.
I’m asked all the time by my Charlotte and Raleigh friends, “Why Kinston?” I tell them it’s because the sense of community here is stronger than anywhere else I’ve ever been in North Carolina.
NN: You’ve interviewed some amazing people and athletes throughout your career. Who have you been the most star-struck by?
BH: I have certainly been lucky to have been able to interview many athletes, entertainment personalities and politicians in my life, including Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Jerry Stackhouse, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Clinton, Jaime Presley and many more.
But I’ve rarely been as awestruck as I was when I interviewed John Feinstein a couple of years ago before an appearance here in Kinston. This is a man whose books — including “Season on the Brink” — I have read my entire adulthood. And he didn’t disappoint; he was a gracious interviewee.
NN: If you had the opportunity to give a commencement speech, what one piece of advice would you give to college graduates?
BH: Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. Yes, there are haters and doubters who are going to try to discourage you, but don’t let them stop you from becoming the person you can become.
NN: If you had a chance to be in the room while drafting the Constitution, and assuming you would have advocated for freedom of speech and the press, what would you have argued against?
BH: I would’ve advocated against any sort of government control over anything that isn’t essential to our liberty — our government’s role was to provide defense for our country from foreign invaders and not much else. The way government has taken over nearly every facet of our lives is disheartening to me.
NN: Favorite childhood memory?
BH: Spending time with my brother Darrell and my Grandpa Hanks. Grandpa would take Darrell and I fishing or just hang out with us. Even at a young age — he passed away when I was 13 — it wasn’t hard to see how wise (and funny!) he was. I take a lot of pride that a lot of people from where I grew up say I look like him and even act like him.
Darrell is, quite simply, my hero on a lot of levels. He has overcome a lot of hurdles (not all of his making) to become the best dad I know. He is an amazing man and I wish I was more like him in so many ways.
NN: Who has been the best athlete-role model in your lifetime?
BH: That is the toughest question of all these presented here! Nationally, I’d have to say Duke’s Shane Battier — he was a champion on the basketball court but also a great student and is an even better human being.
Locally, we’ve been lucky to have some incredible examples of student-athletes and role models, including the GOAT from Lenoir County, Jerry Stackhouse. Jerry does so much for our community behind the scenes for which he’d never take credit, but history will one day reflect his greatness.
Jerry has set an incredible example for the latest generation of local athletes/philanthropists, including Brandon Ingram, Quinton Coples, Reggie Bullock, Chris Hatcher and others.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Jeremy Ingram — he was a senior at Kinston High School when I arrived here in 2002. Not only is he the best interviewee of all the student-athletes I’ve covered here, he has one of the biggest hearts. To meet Jeremy is to love him. If he chose to do so, he’d be a heck of a color analyst on basketball telecasts or radio.