Dale Hansen likes to speak freely. He’s getting a Lifetime Achievement Award for it


Even before he started doing his “Unplugged” commentaries, WFAA/Channel 8 sports anchor Dale Hansen was known for his outspokenness. Now he’s earned a national award because of it.

Hansen will receive the Radio Television Digital News Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be presented March 13 at the 29th Annual First Amendment Awards in Washington.

The awards “will honor a distinguished group of journalists that exemplify responsible journalism and who practice their constitutionally guaranteed duty to see and report the truth,” according to the RTDNF website.

Hansen has been with WFAA/Channel 8 since 1983, when he moved over from KDFW/Channel 4, at the time a CBS affiliate. His accomplishments, detailed in this bio, are numerous, but during the past few years he has attracted the most attention — including national attention — for his “Unplugged” segments, including a 2011 one in which he revealed that he had been molested as a child; a February 2014 commentary about the NFL’s reaction in particular and the public reaction in general to the announcement by Missouri defensive end and draft prospect Michael Sam that he is gay and wants to play football professionally; and “Signs of Change,” a video essay about tolerance that took off from an incident at a Flower Mound vs. East Plano basketball game in which Flower Mound students were seen holding up cards that said “White Power.”

The Michael Sam commentary caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who featured Hansen on her afternoon talk show.

“Dale Hansen is nothing less than a Texas institution,” Dave Lougee, president and CEO of TEGNA, Channel 8’s parent company, says in a quote on Hansen’s RTNDF bio page. “His excellence in reporting and straight-shooting commentaries have made indelible marks on our industry and our nation’s civic discourse.”

Past recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award include Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, CBS/NPR journalist Bob Simon and CBS commentator Andy Rooney.

Among others who will be honored this year are Fox News’ Shepard Smith, who will receive the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award, given to a “radio or television journalist or news executive to the protection of First Amendment freedoms,” and the NBC/MSNBC “Road Warriors,” a group of traveling correspondents who cover national, state and even local races, who received the First Amendment Clarity Award, which recognizes journalists “who go to extraordinary lengths to provide meaning and context to complicated news stories or issues of extreme importance.”

For the full list of honorees, click here.

March stands to be a busy month for WFAA, which has a content-sharing agreement with the Star-Telegram: Not only is Hansen receiving his award March 13, but longtime anchor John McCaa will retire March 1, and Chris Lawrence will take over co-anchoring the evening newscast with Cynthia Izaguirre. And afternoon meteorologist Colleen Coyle, who is currently on adoption leave, is scheduled to return in early March.

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Robert Philpot has been a features reporter for the Star-Telegram since October 1992, and currently covers the Tarrant County (and sometimes more) restaurant scene. He also writes general-entertainment stories and features about DFW TV and radio personalities.