Bob Dotson is the epitome of the phrase “people person.” He started his career in Oklahoma City with KFOR (then WKY) in 1969. His unique journalism style of letting everyday people do the talking garnered Oklahoma its first National Emmy. In 1975, he left to work with NBC, where he honed his craft and created the long-running American Story with Bob Dotson, as well as the travel series Bob Dotson’s America, wherein he travels the country speaking to ordinary Americans, allowing them to tell their stories.
It’s an art that, in this age of Kim Kardashian, is slowly becoming lost in journalism.
“I think we spend far too much time in the news media chasing celebrity and power,” Dotson said. “We’ve always checked up on celebrity and power, but I think that balance has shifted from telling the story of us, the most underreported area of the country,” he said. “That’s basically the book idea.”
Dotson’s latest New York Times bestseller, American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things, captures many of these everyday stories. True to form, it’ll be a chance for him to not only meet fans of the book but to capture more American stories.
“I thought seemingly ordinary people were much more significant,” Dotson said.
One of the stories Dotson said inspired him to write American Story was a meeting with Florence Thompson, famously captured in Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph Migrant Mother. Although initially reluctant to speak to Dotson, she finally told him that even through the hard time of the Great Depression and all the subsequent years of hardship that followed, she never gave up hope.
“What a metaphor of how this country was built. I see that over and over and over again in the kinds of stories that I do,” Dotson said.
Dotson wants to make sure the reader knows this isn’t a collection of feel-good stories. True to America’s past, some of the stories have happy endings and some don’t, but they are all honest.
“[This book is] an investigative report of seemingly ordinary people, the same kind of attention that you would give to a gubernatorial candidate — the good and the bad.”