"A lot of people consider the practice of journalism with a lot of scorn, and sometimes it's deserved," says veteran newsman Greg Dobbs, who'll talk about his new book, Life in the Wrong Lane: Why Journalists Go in When Everyone Else Wants Out, at 6 p.m. tonight at the Denver Press Club. "But journalists do put a lot on the line to give people the news and perpetuate the free flow of information. And I think it's a good thing people know that."
Nonetheless, Dobbs didn't want to recount his years as an international correspondent for ABC in a dry or didactic manner. "I don't think there's a chapter where there isn't a funny, or at least a bizarre, story," he maintains. "The book's about the funny, funky, scary, stupid, dangerous, distasteful, unwise and unbelievable things journalists experience just getting to the point of reporting a story."
The offering's anecdotes span the years between the early '70s, when Dobbs covered the occupation of Wounded Knee, to the early '90s -- and locations include Afghanistan, Egypt, Northern Ireland and Poland during the rise of Solidarity. Along the way, Dobbs got into plenty of life-threatening scrapes, as when a gang of men wielding machetes chased after him in revolution-era Iran, or a meeting with a former CIA spook-turned-arms dealer or his representative -- he never found out for sure -- who was dragged away by "a couple of big studs" during a meeting at a coffee shop, never to be seen again.
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Despite the risks, Dobbs lived for such experiences. "Everyone else who's watching my work, they're up in the balcony, and they've got to put on their glasses and strain to hear," he says. "But I've got a front-row seat."
After moving on from ABC, Dobbs put down roots in Colorado and tried his hand at a number of different media gigs, including talk-show host for the defunct station KNRC. These days, however, he continues to travel the globe as a correspondent for World Report, a program on HDNet, which has a large part of its operation based in Denver. For details, check out this 2006 Message column, featuring an interview with the service's biggest name, CBS expat Dan Rather, and the net's owner, Mark Cuban, who foots the bill for Dobbs' travels; Switzerland and Vietnam are among his recent stops.
World Report "doesn't have the audience that 60 Minutes has," Dobbs concedes. "But Mark Cuban has said that he thinks our show is very important -- that it's important to have things like our show on TV."
Thanks to Cuban's largesse, Dobbs is one of the few TV reporters who gets to tell engage in long-form storytelling; his World Report segments can fill twenty minutes. He feels fortunate to have the opportunity -- but he's always been lucky. If he weren't, Life in the Wrong Lane would have been published posthumously.