Everyone knows Bob Dotson as an eight-time Emmy Award winner and New York Times bestselling author, but people tend to gloss over key elements of storytelling that made him who he is.
Students shuffled into Munson Chapel on Oct. 15 to discover these truths, hoping to grab a bit of his 40 year expertise. Dotson described the background of his early journalistic beginnings, the American experience and the ongoing search for “seemingly ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”
Dotson started working at NBC when he had “red hair and freckles” and managed to stay in NBC for the entirety of his career.
“I had this amazing gig and I knew that I was happy and I always tried to follow my smile,” Dotson explained.
Dotson retired after 40 years, and throughout those years he shared over 6,000 stories during the running of the “American Story with Bob Dotson.” Dotson went on to win over the hearts of American and never drifted from his love of discovering the undiscovered, and this was portrayed throughout the entirety of his address.
Dotson emphasized the necessity of finding the blueprints of what people do and by diving deeper than just the surface-level cliches. The people Dotson is interested in are not the typical celebrities and politicians we see portrayed in the news today, but are the seemingly ordinary people that we often look over.
Christina Kasali, a senior communications major, explained that this perspective shifted her focus on storytelling and caused her to reflect on her own capabilities.
“Dotson focuses on ordinary people doing really incredible things and that was very inspiring [and relatable]…and maybe I can make that sort of impact [too],” Kasali said.
While focusing on the ordinary can seem like a simple task, Dotson explained that the key to depicting the ordinary in a conveying and emotional manner is by being involved in the world.
“If you want to touch folks with what you’re writing about, you have to be a member of the world,” Dotson said.
When Charles Kuralt, who was a part of CBS, told a college-age Dotson that all the money in the world is sitting on a stool in New York City, but that all the fun is out in the world, Dotson was sold. Being a part of the world became his guiding light.
This inspiring view on storytelling stilled the crowd, yet Dotson took it a step further by depicting the commonality of these stories.
Dotson explained that these unique stories are not only found across the nation or world, but can be found in our own backyards. Dotson gave the example of his father and the inspiring story that went along with him.
Dotson’s father had only gone to the fifth grade, but he became an optician after earning an honorary masters degree from 23 years of night school. His father went from being a janitor to a general manager, and this is what Dotson calls the “American story.” This idea of an “American story” became the forefront of every story Dotson told.
“This is the American story,” Dotson said. “It’s not the politicians. It’s not our heroes that score the touchdowns. It’s the people behind that media mirror that reflects celebrities and power. The ones who quietly help America survive and thrive.”
Luke Geggers, a sophomore sports journalism major, passionately explained that he saw the American experience emulating from Dotson’s address. The stories that Dotson shared gave view into what makes the American experience so valuable, Gegger said.
Along with his inspiring views on storytelling and its merit, Dotson also led way into a profound story about his early journalistic calling.
His grandfather would tell a young, 8-year-old Dotson sitting on the glider on the front porch of his house up in Kansas about his honeymoon in Salt Lake City and the turn of events that led to the discovery of his long-lost brother Vance.
His grandfather later sent a postcard to his mother back in Ohio, that Dotson depicts as the first tweet of the 20th century, that read, “Maw, we found Vance. More later,” Dotson said, quoting his grandfather.
Dotson explained that all his life he has been trying to tell a story as good as his grandparents, and that they are the catalysts for his career calling. He still holds his grandfather’s view that “the shortest distance between two people is a good story,” close to his heart.
Bala Musa, professor at APU, encapsulated Dotson’s address as a telling of stories that matter.
“Everybody is drawn to the governor and the dramatic, but at the end of the day what does it matter?” Musa said. “When you think about ordinary people making a difference and impacting lives and changing the world in their small ways, that is what matters.”
“If you just spend your time looking in that mirror that reflects celebrities and power everyday, you forget that the real story of how the world works is in the shadows,” Dotson said.
Dotson shed light on the greater necessity of focusing on those that are often overlooked, for those are the ones with the most engaging, emotional and meaningful stories that allude to the American story, that in turn relate to the world.