Ever wonder what it’s like to be a far-flung correspondent for T.V. news? Let’s just say it’s no walk in the park. This week Greg Dobbs, an Emmy-winning producer and correspondent for 23 years with ABC and currently a correspondent for HDNet TV, shares a few priceless tales of woe from his new book, Life in the Wrong Lane – Why Journalists Go In When Everyone Else Wants Out. Here’s the first of three. Thanks Greg. I hope you enjoy his misfortunes as much as I do. — Ed.
[Note: the following is from a chapter about Dobbs covering the Indian occupation of Wounded Knee.]
The first sign was maybe a hundred yards ahead of us, at the top of a hill, silhouetted in the dark night. A lone figure, erect, like a statue at the top of a treeless slope, the barrel of his rifle standing out against the night sky. He seemed to be peering right down at us. If he was a fed, he was just waiting to clamp on the cuffs.
We stopped short and whispered to each other. Fed, or Indian, or angry rancher? No way to know. But it didn’t really matter. Whoever he was, he wasn’t acting real friendly.
We could cut fast to the left or right and hope to outrun him. We were weighted down with tens of thousands of dollars in camera equipment, but who knows? Maybe in this deep snow, we could move just as fast as he could.
And maybe we couldn’t. Furthermore, outrunning him might not be our biggest challenge. What if he shoots at us? Could we outrun the bullet?
So we decided to surrender. After all, if he was an Indian, he’d probably help lead us back to Wounded Knee. If he was a rancher, he’d probably read us the riot act and tell us to get the hell off his land. And if he was a fed, well, we were just journalists. Sure, we were trespassing, and sure, we had illegally crossed a government barrier, but if this was an agent, what would the government do to us except slap our hands and send us home?
“We’re journalists and we’re not armed.” I tried to keep my voice calm as we took maybe a dozen steps in his direction. But he was calmer than I was; he hardly moved. And he didn’t say a single word back to us. So now, Art spoke.
“I’m Art Levy. I’m a cameraman for TVN. My partner is Greg Dobbs. He’s a producer for ABC.” And with that, we took another dozen steps toward our captor.
But he didn’t respond. Or move. We could still make out the shape of the rifle’s barrel.
“We’ll put our hands in the air, just to show you we mean no harm.” Art seemed to have the right idea now. Just as we could only see this guy in silhouette, maybe that’s how he saw us. And all our protruding equipment, which just as easily could have looked to him like weapons as TV gear. Picture me, walking along with this long tripod sticking out front. In the darkness of the night, it looks like a long gun. “Just give us a few seconds to put all our equipment down.”
We set everything down in the snow. That should reassure him. And we put our arms in the air. That should too. And we took a few more steps. He didn’t take even one. This was beginning to worry us. It’s bad enough to get arrested. Worse still to be captured by some nut with other things in mind. But that was how it seemed to be shaping up.
“Look.” My turn again. “We’re going to keep coming toward you, slowly, unless you tell us to stop. And we’ll keep our arms in the air. But we want you to see us, and we want to show you our press credentials, and show you that we don’t have any weapons.”
He didn’t say not to, so we began stepping through the deep snow. One tall step after another, closer and closer to the mysteriously still and silent figure. Remember, it’s a dark night. We’d have to be nearly nose-to-nose to make out more than just his shape.
Which is what it took. It wasn’t until Art and I were just a couple of yards from this stoic figure that we could see that he wasn’t an Indian. Or a rancher. Or a federal agent.
This guy had four legs. We were surrendering to a Black Angus bull. With a long horn that stood out above his head like a rifle.
We were so shaken, we apologized. To the bull. — Greg Dobbs
To buy Dobbs’ new book, ‘LIFE IN THE WRONG LANE (iUniverse), click here.