Channel 2 Action News reporter Jeff Dore is retiring this Friday after more than 30 years at the station.
“After the two winter storms and sleeping on an air mattress in a Channel 2 office, I realized it was time, ” Dore said today while on the road covering a fire that burned up 17 police motorcycles.
Dore came to WSB-TV in January, 1984, when reporters were still pounding out stories on electronic typewriters at the old building dubbed “White Columns.”
At age 61, Dore said only Diana Davis has been reporting at the station longer than he has – and she only beat him by a few months.
Dore contracted leukemia a decade ago and has been in remission ever since. One side effect: a reduced immune system that has made him susceptible to other illnesses. In late 2012, he was down for the count with pneumonia, taking him off the air for two months. A second new bout of pneumonia hit him almost immediately and he was gone again for two months. “It was very very hard, physically and mentally,” he said.
In July, working in his yard at his Sandy Springs home, he got bit by a snake in July, landing him in the hospital for two more days. He crashed his bike two weeks later. Then his father passed away at the end of last year.
He said he’s leaving in the middle of a contract, but his bosses have been kind to let him out without penalty.
“I was really looking at my mortality,” he said. “I don’t want to die on the job.”
Dore said he’s always been a features guy at heart. Prior to WSB, he was the “on the road” guy at a Nashville TV station. He and a photographer would go out into the country and just find stories on the fly.
But over the past two decades, with WSB’s emphasis on breaking news, he’s had to adjust to a daily diet of homicides, fires, traffic accidents and bad weather. He said he first learned to do the news straight, then over time, add his own take on things.
“I’ve always kept the feature reporter alive in me even doing hard news,” Dore said. “If they sent me to cover a tornado, I’d come back with somebody totally wacky with a bizarre take on the experience. I’d always look for that quirky twist.”
He said over three decades, he went from being the young gun to the wily veteran. He remembers when he was new, he asked former WSB reporter Don McClellan how he had lasted so long in such a tough business. More than two decades later, new reporter Ryan Young asked Dore how he kept going. He felt a sense of deja vu. “I realized I was older than Don was when I asked him that same question!” he said. “Now I know what I look like to the young reporters!”
Dore said he never chose to dye his hair as it gradually went white. “The only thing we really have is our credibility,” he said. “I shouldn’t go on air every night and tell this subtle lie about how I really look. I am what I am. Take it or leave it. And I knew if I started doing it, I’d have to keep doing it!”
He said his most memorable stories were covering hurricanes. He recalls during 1989′s monstrously destructive Hurricane Hugo entering places the cops had abandoned in Myrtle Beach. He remembers doing a live shoot with rain and wind whipping in his face, obscuring his view. He could barely see the light coming from his photographer Eddie Green’s camera. At one point, the light shifted several feet so he moved with it. Afterwards, he learned the wind had actually lifted Green off his feet into the air, turning him briefly into a kite.
Dore said he’s proud he lasted in the business as long as he has. “I’ve seen so many people come and go,” he said. “And over the years, I’ve developed my own style. I try to see the humanity in any story. I treat everyone with respect. And I appreciate humor even in the worst situations. If you listen to what people are saying and appreciate the quirky moments, you can reveal what the truth is and how people really feel about a situation.”
With retirement just a couple of days away, he said he plans to spend more time as guitarist and vocalist for his bluegrass band Hicks With Picks. (He currently plays weekly at his church Rock Spring Presbyterian on Piedmont.). He also trains for a charity bike ride each year for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Here’s a sampling of his work on YouTube:
And here’s the snake bite story, reported by Diana Davis: