A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

SDX Awards: TV feature reporting, NBC News, Today

By Quill

“American Story with Bob Dotson” is an ongoing series on the NBC TODAY Show. For 30 years, Dotson has roamed the countryside looking for people and places that define American character. His stories highlight the values that shape the country.

“Hopefully, it helps us understand ourselves a bit better,” said correspondent Dotson. “They show that all our lives are important and really matter. After all, this country was not built by celebrities or politicians, but by ordinary people – by thousands of names we don’t know, may never know, but without whom, America wouldn’t exist.”

Dotson calls his work “old school” news coverage.

“For our profession to survive, we must bring context and understanding to the viewer,” said Dotson. “We must become better storytellers – not just shout headlines.”

Chris Knight decided 12 years ago that God would be much happier with him if he was a little less worldly, so he quit his job, sold his house, Volvo and most of his family’s belongings and moved himself and his nine children to a farm in Kentucky, where they live a self-sufficient lifestyle – no running water, electricity, etc. Three years ago, Chris began writing songs about his family’s experiences. A friend enticed him to leave the farm and record an album. It landed in the Top 50 on the pop charts. So now the Knight family has restored an old school bus and is striking out across the country, playing packed houses. Their sound? Think Bruce Springsteen down on the farm.

“There is a whole area of journalism that’s underreported – everyday life,” said Dotson. “Journalists too often focus on life’s flat tires. Instead of always honing in on the flat one, take a good look at what’s right with the other three. Kick the other tires, and figure why they’re still up.”

Judges praised Dotson’s stories, saying “American Story” is everything TV features should be.

“Mr. Dotson always remembers he’s not the story,” said judges. “He never overwrites. His lean, polished, well-crafted scripts set the standard. Bob Dotson does stories people remember and share with others.”