Oil production in the Bakken region of North Dakota has topped 1 million barrels a day. The seven-year boom has flooded the area with new residents seeking their fortunes, and many journalists have also joined the labor force, sending dispatches from the new Wild West. Longreads recently interviewed reporter Maya Rao about her time in North Dakota, where she spent a month working as a cashier before writing a piece for The Atlantic. Below is her piece, along with four other examples of immersive reporting from the region.
“Searching for the Good Life in the Bakken Oil Fields.” (Maya Rao, The Atlantic, September 2014)
Rao’s dispatch from behind the counter of a local truck stop looks at the swelling labor market, and the question of just how many of the new arrivals are actually “winning.”
Stripper’s Guide to the Modern American Boomtown.” (Susan Elizabeth Shepard, July 2013)
Shepard meditates on the traveling economy of strippers and sex workers that so often follow an economic boom in a region, as well as her own experiences working on and off in the Bakken over the last several years.
“I Worked in a Strip Club in a North Dakota Fracking Boomtown.” (Laura Gottesdiener, Mother Jones, October 2014)
Gottesdiener originally intended to write about life in the oil fields, but ended up as a cocktail waitress at Whispers, the same strip joint where Susan Shepard had worked. Read together, these two pieces illustrate just how much the area has changed over the course of the boom.
“Undercover as a Day Laborer in North Dakota.” (Blaire Briody, The Oil Men, September 2013)
Briody leads “The Oil Men,” a multimedia journalism project about the North Dakota boom. In this piece she talks about working as a day laborer on a construction site.
“Greetings From Williston, North Dakota.” (Stephen Rodrick, Men’s Journal, July 2012)
Rodrick explores the same themes—a modern boomtown, suddenly swamped by thousands of men looking work—from a different and fascinating perspective: undercover in one of the region’s “man camps.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons