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“Everything about North Dakota is changing because of the oil boom.”
Todd Melby, Producer, in Nieman Journalism Lab
In 2012, journalist Todd Melby began to investigate the oil boom that had overtaken his home state of North Dakota. The oil rush changed the state’s landscape, infrastructure, and culture virtually overnight. In partnership with the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR)’s Localore initiative, Melby decided to document the change in Black Gold Boom, which tells North Dakota’s story through the eyes of its inhabitants.
The 20-minute interactive documentary Rough Ride: The Oil Patch Tour ties together nine diverse chapters about the oil rush. Each chapter features its own set of protagonists, from rig drillers to local musicians. The project is multimedia-rich; professional photo-sets live alongside user-produced content from YouTube as well as interactive tours of various locations, such as the enormous prefab worker dorms that now cover North Dakota.
In 2015, Melby expanded Black Gold Boom with a second interactive documentary, Oil To Die For. Merging investigative journalism with interactivity, the project explores the dangers faced by oil workers, using infographics, video, audio interviews, personal and legal documents, and an interactive timeline of one worker’s life and death.