04/16/14 — 'Tar Heel Traveler' Mason speaks at annual Belk Lecture

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'Tar Heel Traveler' Mason speaks at annual Belk Lecture

By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on April 16, 2014 1:46 PM

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Scott Mason

The Rotary Club of Goldsboro hosted Scott Mason, known for his "Tar Heel Traveler" segment on WRAL, as the speaker for the annual Belk Lecture held Tuesday afternoon.

Mason is a broadcast journalist with 30 years of experience writing and producing for television. His most recent series of segments on WRAL, the "Tar Heel Traveler," reports feature stories gleaned from across the state of North Carolina. Because of his job, Mason has spent months traveling from town to town gathering and telling stories of interesting N.C. residents.

In Goldsboro, Mason has told the tales of Wilber's Barbecue, the dropped atomic bond in Faro, the AMC dealership in Wayne County and, most recently, he reported the story of one of the longest married couples in the world -- Robert and Virginia Gerald.

"I've always enjoyed making the trip here," Mason said.

Mason said that he grew up writing stories. So naturally, when it came time for him to start a career, he knew that he wanted to write for a living. Journalism seemed a good fit. His career eventually led him to WRAL, where he was given the position as the lead producer for "Tar Heel Traveler."

"I have the best job in television, not just locally or in the state but nationally. We get to travel around the state and we are totally unsupervised," Mason said.

During his lecture, Mason would often show some of his past work shown originally on WRAL. By interweaving the tales of those in North Carolina into his lecture, he explained some of the tenets of journalism that he aims for when producing the stories of others.

When explaining the story of a Greensboro man who spends time every day calling members of his church and wishing them a happy birthday, Mason explained that reporters are looking for unguarded moments -- "those natural moments and those little surprises," he said.

The story of Merrie and her loyalty to her Chevy Suburban explained how reporters look to tell stories with layers.

"Every story can't be upbeat all the way through. They need meaning and layers," he said.

Most of Mason's stories are sent to him. Stuffing them in a laptop bag almost bursting at the seams, he tries his best to do as many as he can. At this point, Mason has created over 1,000 segments of "The Tar Heel Traveler. He estimates today that he has over 5,000 ideas ready for the segment, and he gets more every day.

"There is a never ending supply," he said. "Sometimes, they'll fall out of the sky and into our lap."

Examples he showed of this phenomenon include the stories of two identical twins who married brothers and the tale of a couple whose house sits on a county line.

Mason ended the lecture with plugs for his book "Tar Heel Traveler: Journeys Across North Carolina," which tells the stories behind the segments, and "Tar Heel Traveler Eats" -- an upcoming book coming out in September that features the many eateries the segment has featured throughout the years.