How a burger on the Columbia launched my digital media career

Cascade Locks OR — posted by Hanson Hosein

325902c0 I took this photo, seven years ago, using the digital image function (640 x 480, very low res) on my Sony TRV-900 camcorder.

It’s under the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, OR along the Columbia River.

It’s quite fitting that I’ve returned to this region for the first time since then, on a “Faculty Fellows” field tour as a professor with the University of Washington. Because I wouldn’t have gotten here (as Director of the UW’s Master of Communication in Digital Media) without going there (Cascade Locks, OR).

How do the two connect? Read on…

Seven years ago, I left NBC News, at the height of my career as a network news journalist. Despite my success, I knew I wasn’t destined for a life in corporate media. I had just bought a 3-CCD camcorder and wanted to take control of my own message — and had just started learning how to shoot and edit my own stories. I was also maintaining my own website of personal travel essays, a pop-up ad-heavy ancestor to the blog. Some of these stories eventually found their way onto MSNBC.com.327902c0

Well aware of our dwindling savings that summer, Heather and I decided to take a sales tax-free holiday down to Oregon, with the aim of purchasing my wedding ring. On that short trip, we opted to make a detour along the Columbia River gorge.

We stopped for lunch in Cascade Locks. And here’s an excerpt of what I wrote from that experience:

[W]e were quite taken with the fact that, except for the Best Western hotel, we were unable to find one franchise establishment That seems to be a rarity these days in America, where it’s possible to close your eyes and got lost on any suburban street corner because of the indistinguishable proliferation of fast food chains, gas stations and supermarkets. We decided to reward these die-hard mom and pop businesses with our lunch business and selected the local drive-thru. No Value Meals here, as the counter attendant in this 1950’s throwback was forced to tabulate our order using a pencil and paper — and get this — mental arithmetic! Our cheeseburger and chicken sandwich were delicious. The freshly-made French fries were copious and didn’t leave any grease stains inside the large white paper bag in which they were served. We ate outside and watched over forty school children inundate the drive-thru with their ice cream orders. Grasping a brilliant notion when I see one, I waited for the hordes to subside and then ordered my very own medium, soft-serve chocolate ice cream cone. I should have listened to the schoolteacher who had warned her students to stick to the small portion. The ice cream was almost more than twice the length of my hand, and I nearly managed to consume it all.

I recalled this experience two years later, when, after returning from six months covering Operation Iraqi Freedom as a backpack TV journalist, Heather and I took a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, only doing business with Mom & Pop. That led to the idea for a full-fledged documentary. Thus “Independent America” was born. My strange, new way of creating my own message, and then selling it, eventually brought me to the gates of the University of Washington. And now, with the help of my amazing students, we are “Flipping The Media.”

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