In Depth

Writer Lets Images Speak

Dotson Wins 4th Murrow for ‘Today’s’ ‘American Story’

When the first Edward R. Murrow Award for writing was presented in 1999, NBC News’ Bob Dotson took it home. In subsequent years, the 34-year NBC veteran has won two more Murrows in the category and this year he is back again, for his work on “Today’s” “American Story,” bringing his total to four.

With a background in documentary film, Mr. Dotson’s strategy is to let his images tell much of the story. “I’m not writing a lot of wallpaper,” he said. He tries to include a “little surprise” in his tales of ordinary Americans who do extraordinary things, the kind of twist that will make morning viewers “late for the bus.”

The stories that won him this year’s award chronicled brothers who found their father’s sunken World War II submarine in the Bering Sea when the Navy couldn’t and an Idaho doctor who flies to see patients. A third followed young women in Kansas who found a calling performing their play about a Catholic nurse who saved Jewish children during World War II.

Within each tale, Mr. Dotson said, there are always two tracks: The more straightforward story, and a second theme exploring why these ordinary people “are still at bat, when others might not be. There’s some takeaway in that,” he said.

The majority of his two or three stories each month are culled from 40 to 50 weekly submissions through the segment’s Web site. PR pitches aren’t welcome. “Obviously, the writing is only as good as the story you find,” he said, “so we keep digging and digging and digging.”

Mr. Dotson, who just turned 62, recently signed a new four-year contract. He praised the executive producer of “Today,” Jim Bell, noting, “For him to find room for the story of us is lovely. Knock on wood that NBC continues to do that. They could certainly have me do 100 live shots rather than two or three stories a month.”