NBC’s Bob Dotson has never been one to follow the herd. He’s built a career out of telling the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things on his American Story franchise for the Today Show. How did he get where he is? “I think almost every break I got in this business is something I started on my own time,” Dotson told News Photographer magazine.
He shot his first documentary for WKY television in Oklahoma on his own time. “They just gave me film,” he says. He wound up producing 19 docs before leaving the station for the network in 1975.
“Success in this business is not a question of being dealt a good hand,” Dotson says. “It’s playing a bad hand well over and over and over again.”
Dotson has played his hand so well he now has the kind of job many TV journalists envy. He has the luxury of time to discover and report feature stories. He gets more time on the air to tell them. But he firmly believes great stories can be told without those advantages. The key is to excel within the limitations you face, he says, whatever they are.
You may not have a chance or even the desire to be a feature reporter, but you can still apply Dotson’s approach to visual storytelling in your own work. Thanks to Bob Kaplitz of AR&D for annotating one of Dotson’s stories to spotlight his techniques.