He was born to Canadian television journalist Margot Rita Wallace, and Naval Officer Daniel Lionel Hanington in Portsmouth, England. As a young man, Hanington was educated at Eaton House in Sloane Square before the family moved to Canada where he attended Sedbergh School in Montebello, Quebec, and then later Carleton University, where he earned a B.A. Honours in English.
Hanington joined the Canadian Navy at 16, and trained as a Watchkeeper and Navigating Officer where he served on various ships including HMCS ALGONQUIN with astronaut Marc Garneau. In 1976, he left sea to become the Base Information Officer at CFB Halifax. During this time, Hanington produced and hosted a NATO military strategy news show called The Last Dogwatch.
In 1984, Hanington authored his first text, Every Popish Person: the Story of Roman Catholicism in Nova Scotia and the Church Of Halifax, 1604-1984. Hanington's writing success would continue with the publication of A Hundred Years On a Handshake in 2014. The book celebrates the 100th anniversary of Canada's oldest family run construction business, Sullivan & Son Limited.
In 1977, Hanington purchased Maritime Command Trident, the naval newspaper, which he published through the newly formed Hanington Publications, a 24-hour photo typesetting house. Trident was the first community newspaper in Canada to be laid out on a computer. He published it for 15 years.
In 1982, Hanington was asked to be the first-ever communications director for the Archdiocese of Halifax, where he again produced and hosted a TV interview show called A Question of Faith. During this time, Hanington wrote Every Popish Person: the story of Roman Catholicism in Nova Scotia and the Church of Halifax, 1604–1984, which was published by the Archdiocese. He presented the first copy personally to Pope John Paul II.
In 1984-86, he was asked to serve as the director of the Atlantic Film Festival, which he revived from near-bankruptcy. By doubling the number of venues, and almost tripling the number of entries, Hanington, who was described that year by Cinema Canada magazine as being a “creative iconoclast in a suit” helped turn the Atlantic Film Festival from a local gathering of amateur filmmakers into a cultural event of national stature. With creative partner Derek Sarty, Hanington created The Moon Snail Award, which adopted a well-known but little used symbol of Atlantic Canadian geography to boost pride in the unique approach and culture, reflected in the Atlantic cinema of the day.
In 1988, Hanington incorporated Stiff, a company of writers, and moved the business to Ottawa. He spent the next 10 years traveling extensively through the developing world, creating documentaries that showcased the relief work Canadians were doing abroad. Hanington led the agency to write for Prime Ministers, Presidents, Knights and the Pope. In 2007, Stiff Sentences expanded to Asia through its sister company, BackDRAFT. Stiff was the only ever ISO 9000 registered company of writers.
Hanington created the BackDRAFT System, a system of writing-quality assurance. Through this internal management system, BackDRAFT helped organizations set a writing standard, and ensured all employees could meet it. This training tool was further developed into the BackDRAFT Online Training System. The training wing of Stiff then split off to form BackDRAFT Corporation, which sold seminar and online writing training throughout North America.
In 2007, BackDRAFT Corporation moved to China, where Hanington wrote and created interactive English as a foreign language online products to help the Chinese to speak and write in English, under the Journey to English banner.
Hanington married Deborah Elizabeth Johnson on May 12, 1974. They have two children together, Simon Arthur Hanington and James Francis Hanington.