The general manager of Tacoma’s KBTC Public Television, and TNC in Washington trustee, on the power of storytelling to engage people in conservation and create a better future for the next generation.  

By Anya Blaney 

An awe-inspiring Northwest event shaped DeAnne Hamilton’s approach to storytelling, community involvement, and the natural world. After working her way from receptionist to producer at KATU, the ABC affiliate in Portland, she had the chance to produce both her first and last show before moving to San Francisco. The story? The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980, which took nearly 60 lives, resulted in history’s largest recorded landslide, altered the landscape, and caused a weeks-long ash storm that touched the Rocky Mountains.  

After the volcano erupted, DeAnne produced a show for Portland’s Town Hall program that allowed those affected by the eruption to come together and tell their stories. By giving people a platform for self-expression about their connection to the volcano or to the land that was affected or destroyed by the eruption, DeAnnne found her calling as a conduit for connection. 

“We wanted to create a show to hear what people’s experience had been and to talk about their needs,” DeAnne said. “We helped to identify how people could get help rebuilding their lives following the volcanic eruption. Town Hall gave me the interest to look at issues and give people an opportunity to speak to those issues.” 

Since this experience, three values have followed DeAnne throughout her career: connecting with people, telling their stories, and making her community stronger.  

DeAnne’s story demonstrates the powerful connection between sharing narratives and raising awareness about environmental and social issues. She brings this focus to her role as a member of the Board of Trustees at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Washington.  

DeAnne was born in the Pacific Northwest, where she was raised with an appreciation for nature that kindled a sense of awe and curiosity. She pursued her passion for learning to the University of Washington, where she attended journalism school. There, she discovered a hunger to take on new challenges and learn everything she could from the world around her.  

“I liked everything, so I wanted to do everything,” DeAnne said of the appetite for knowledge that drove her to a media career. “I didn’t want to just get pigeonholed into one area, so I thought that if I worked in media, I could dabble in all the things that interested me. I am curious, I like to talk to different people, and it was an avenue for lifelong learning.” 

After earning her diploma, DeAnne decided not to work at a print newspaper due to the lack of job opportunities in her area and her reluctance to move to a small town. Instead, she found a job in television in Portland and gained confidence by learning the intricacies of production while working hands-on in her field. 

Throughout her career, DeAnne has held positions as production assistant, associate producer, producer, senior producer, l, executive producer, , and general manager and vice president for commercial and public media stations such as KQED and 90.5 WESA in large city markets including Portland, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh. She now serves as Executive Director and General Manager of KBTC Public Television in Tacoma, Washington.  

This story ties in to townhall. Can it sit somewhere else? 

 Today, DeAnne’s work provides an avenue to elevate other environmental issues that are important.. The station is currently creating an extensive body of work about salmon conservation. Northwest Now on KBTC has spent years providing in-depth coverage of the efforts to save the Pacific Northwest’s native salmon runs.  

DeAnne’s commitment to improving nature issues in Washington and her desire to bring people together are what make her an ideal fit for the executive committee of The Nature Conservancy in Washington. Fellow Board of Trustees member Mike Schaefer recruited her to the role, where she has served her first three-year term.  

DeAnne understands how impactful her personal and professional roles are in the community; she can take the causes she becomes aware of and working with the KBTC team make them relevant to people’s everyday lives on TV and in virtual and in-person gatherings. As a result, she feels a strong sense of purpose and vision in her board responsibilities. 

“I hope that I can pull together shows or stories about the environment because individuals could benefit from knowing what they can do,” DeAnne said. “We hear so much about climate change, but what we’re trying to do at KBTC is to try to find an opportunity to give people ideas so that they can participate in the work.” She taps into the array of subject-matter experts at TNC to tell those stories in greater depth.  

Those efforts are already well underway. She has traveled across Washington with the Conservancy, where she had the opportunity to meet First Nations elders and with leaders like Cody Desautel, a TNC board member and Executive Director for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. In addition to the value of personal connections, DeAnne loves witnessing and participating in TNC’s work, from planting trees in Tacoma and South Puget Sound to conserving the Emerald Edge rainforest.  

 “I would not have ever experienced [these efforts] outside of being on the board, which was terrific,” DeAnne said. “That’s what the Conservancy has done for me: opened a whole world through their restoration work. Serving with our wonderful board members, especially those who are connected to Indigenous communities, has been so rewarding.” 

DeAnne’s connection with TNC in Washington has also highlighted and elevated the need to drive much-needed resources to under-invested areas, which has influenced the kinds of stories she produces. She has encouraged her team at Northwest Now to bring their attention to environmental reporting, such as their reporting on salmon conservation. DeAnne sees her most important role as educating the next generation about how climate change affects different communities, and what they can do to turn the tide.  

“We must raise awareness of the value of our natural resources and why we must strive to preserve them and keep them healthy and clean,” she stated. “We work extensively with early childhood education, teaching kids about the importance of environmental sustainability. We provide children with tips on how to explore their backyard, how to spot butterflies and other pollinators, and how planting trees and plants can benefit our environment. That’s been inspired by TNC.”  

DeAnne believes that the power of meeting people where they are, alongside the efforts of TNC in Washington, can educate people of all ages and inspire them to make a positive impact on their environment. She emphasizes that any change that occurs should be a collaborative effort that leaves every stakeholder with a sense of purpose and responsibility. 

“I would like to invite people who are involved in the work to come and play with us [at KBTC],” DeAnne said. “Come talk to our viewers or talk to the youth that we connect with. There is wonderful work that I think will help support our environment and bring about awareness.”  

She also wants people to understand the urgency of making an impact on climate change. She explained, “I hope that everyone knows that the issue around climate change is so important to talk about, like telling stories about taking care of the salmon so that the orcas have food. We just need to find ways to tell those stories, and I’m open to hearing them.” 

When she’s not dedicating her time to KBTC or TNC in Washington, it might be no surprise that DeAnne is involved with other causes and community efforts to improve people’s lives. She devotes her time to the Humanities Washington board. 

“I am very fortunate to serve on the TNC in Washington and the Humanities boards align closely with public media, focusing on history, literature, and social justice,” she said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to bring authentic voices to our audiences through gatherings, speaker events, and collaborative initiatives like our recent partnership called Prime Time.” The program brought the families of young children together for reading sessions, fostering a book club atmosphere while also providing meals and books for the participants.  

“It’s important for us to create a sense of community and provide learning experiences through public media, whether it’s through broadcasting educational programs or developing engaging materials for children,” DeAnne concluded. “If we can expand this impact to include environmental issues, that would be truly remarkable.” 

By Anya Blaney, Partner, Blaney Consulting  

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