Five-time Emmy winner warms hearts one story at a time

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Todd Hansen as host of the Story Trek, takes his audiences across the country to meet to find the modern tales of our of our time. (Photo courtesy thestorytrek.com and BYU Broadcasting)
Todd Hansen as host of “The Story Trek,” takes his audiences across the country to find the modern tales of our time. (Photo courtesy thestorytrek.com and BYU Broadcasting)

In the age of instant communication, storytelling and “once upon a time” are sometimes considered old and unwanted. The most common stories are those about catastrophe and the cruelty of man. This negativity often decreases faith in humanity.

Todd Hansen, with his TV show that goes out to 53 million people every week, believes a small action could help remedy this situation.

“The world would be a lot better place if people would get to know their neighbors,” Hansen said.

Todd Hansen, recent winner of four Emmys for his work in 2013, is the creator and host of “The Story Trek,” a BYUtv series. In the show, Hansen and his crew set out to tell the amazing, heart-warming stories lying hidden in the lives of the everyday stranger.

Virginia Miles meets Hansen and his crew at her home in Ridgeway, South Carolina. Like so many of those featured in the show, Miles receives Hansen and the crew with apprehension at first.
Virginia Miles meets Hansen and his crew at her home in Ridgeway, SC. Like so many of those featured in the show, Miles receives Hansen and the crew with apprehension at first. (Photo courtesy BYU Broadcasting)

Virginia Miles, one of those strangers, living in South Carolina, told of her first impression at seeing Hansen and his small crew knocking at her door.

“I’m 71, and you know how people sometimes rob older people, so I asked him, ‘Are you here to rob me?’”

Drawn in by his warmth and kindness, Miles invited Hansen in and told him her story of enduring and overcoming the early loss of a child. Her story was featured in the episode “Junk Mail Miracle” and can be viewed online at BYUtv.org.

“The job is so good for him because he makes you feel so at ease that you could tell him anything. When he was talking to me and I was crying, he had tears in his eyes. You could look the world over, and you could never find a more compassionate, more loving man than that,” Miles said.

Hansen began the idea for “The Story Trek” during his time as a Fox 13 reporter.

“I just got tired of the same old bad news. (It) was boring to me,” Hansen said.

Hansen pitched a new idea to his boss: Tell the story of an average person off the street. To Hansen’s surprise, his boss agreed.

“When you work in news as long as (we) have, you forget that there are good people in the world. You forget that the average man and wife are trying to make the world a better place just by raising their children,” said Nichole Coombs, a Fox 13 producer who worked with Hansen.

This fresh look on the world became so popular that Hansen was given a weekly Sunday night newscast eventually dubbed “Trippin’ with Todd.”

“But I never would have chosen that name,” Hansen said, laughing. “I thought, ‘If I could just go on doing this, I would stay in news forever.’”

But once a week wasn’t enough for Hansen to outweigh the monotonous stream of negative stories, so Hansen left Fox 13 and pitched the idea to BYUtv.

After accepting the idea on trial basis, BYUtv assigned Jon Andrus as production manager for Hansen, and together they began production on what was to be called “The Story Trek.”

“We’ve been through the fire together,” Andrus said. “Neither of us knew how to produce a weekly television show … but we were out to prove to BYUtv that we were the best show they had.”

According to Andrus, Hansen was a reluctant producer at first, often deferring to others to make decisions, but as the show progressed, so did Hansen.

“He has grown into the mantle of being able to say exactly how he wants the show to look. He’s grown into that leadership,” Andrus said.

Five successful seasons later, the show has its own producer, Nichole Coombs, Hansen’s producer from Fox 13. It also now has thousands of loyal fans and has won five Emmys in the last two years.

“It’s nice to get that recognition, but the real payoff is the journey. It’s meeting these people and being with them in their homes,” Hansen said.

Though there is currently no information available as to how long “The Story Trek” will remain with BYUtv, it is the hope of Andrus, Coombs and Hansen that they will continue to help people see the good in the world and the hearts of ordinary people.

“My hope is that (people) realize that everyone has something going on in their life — that they’re special, that they’re important, that they don’t need to judge them — that when they look in the mirror they can say, ‘That person is compelling,’” Hansen said.

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