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Published January 17 2011

Prairie Public airs documentary about former North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan


Dave Thompson says it was “very seldom we saw him sitting anywhere.”

Thompson, who helped create a new one-hour documentary looking at the daily life of former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, was struck by the busyness of the state’s former senator.

“Everything seems to be in 15-minute increments,” Thompson says. “It’s just highly and tightly scheduled.”

The documentary, produced by Prairie Public’s Bob Dambach, premieres at 8 tonight on Prairie Public Television.

Filmmakers shadowed Dorgan over the course of two days in September before Dorgan left the Senate. They followed Dorgan as he was engaged in legislation, meetings and speeches typical in his daily Washington, D.C., schedule.

Dorgan announced a year ago that he would not run for another term in the U.S. Senate after a three-decade career in Congress.

“They called and indicated that they (wanted) to document ‘a day in the life of’ and also talk about the career I’ve had in the Congress,” Dorgan said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.

He says he was honored by the request.

Thompson, news director for Prairie Public, says working on the project “was very interesting” and also “tiring because it takes a lot of energy to keep up.”

“I think it may dispel some perceptions” that senators simply sit on the floor of the Senate and speak once in a while, Thompson says.

He says “most of the work is being done outside of the Senate chambers.”

The documentary also includes footage from interviews with Dorgan and others such as Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

Thompson says Dorgan was “a very well-respected man on both sides of the aisle.”

Dorgan says he “was honored when they called and asked if they could come out and chronicle a ‘day in the life of’ and talk with me a little about my recollections dating back to my time in state government and my time in the House and the Senate and some of the highlights.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter J. Shane Mercer at (701) 241-5734