News From–and In–the Oil Patch

The oil boom is affecting newspapers in western North Dakota just as much as it is every other industry, it seems.

Three people in the newspaper business had a roundtable discussion Friday morning at the North Dakota Newspaper Association conference, which I attended, and all three of them and the moderator had a lot to say about how their businesses had been affected.

Forum Communications Company Reporter Amy Dalrymple, whose work we often run in the Jamestown Sun, covered the discussion. Her story’s great, check it out!

There are a couple of other things I’d like to add:

  • At least one paper has so many ad purchases coming in that it’s having a hard time keeping the ad content down to 75% of its pages. If it doesn’t do that, it’ll lose its favorable mail rate, which is bad.

The obvious solution is to hire another reporter to write for them so they have more content to fill pages with. Unfortunately, hiring reporters to work in the Oil Patch, like hiring anyone else to work there, is hard.

They hire people, who then can’t find a place to live, and go work somewhere else. Or they hire someone, who decides they don’t like the job, and then just literally wanders off because they can get ten other jobs in ten minutes.

This means the newspapers sometimes hire people right off the street, because if they leave, they might not get another shot at that person.

That’s how scarce workers are. And of course they have to pay them more, too.

  • Staff members are so short that when the three joked about poaching each other’s people, I had the uneasy feeling that there was a little bit of truth to the jokes. They needed people badly, in other words.

I was surprised no one tried to recruit me on the spot, or lure me into a parking garage to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse. But nobody did.