Blake Ellis and Jordan Malter of CNNMoney traveled 2,000 miles to Kansas and North Dakota to get an on-the-ground look at the job migration created by oil drilling for their “America’s Biggest Boomtowns” series.
Their stories and interviews introduce readers to workers who’ve trekked across the country for high-paying jobs, and business owners who’ve profited from rapid population increases.
To find the real people, they sought sources in a pre-trip story about the oil boom, Blake says. They searched Facebook for people moving into the boomtown areas. They talked to county officials and economic development people. And they made cold calls.
“The whole point of going on the road trip was to meet with people we couldn’t meet by finding their phone numbers online,” Jordan says.
Once on the ground, the two say they listened. One person’s comment about making $15 an hour at McDonald’s led to a story about high wages as local businesses compete with oilfield wages. The story of someone who’d been evicted when the landlord got a higher offer highlighted the rental rate spikes. Workers sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots highlighted the housing shortage.
Most of the 15 videos include only the sources talking so they could tell their own stories, Jordan says. “So often, reporters take the central role so their voices are very prominent,” he says. “We try to move away from that.”
The series was a finalist for an Editor & Publisher’s EPPY award this year. It won awards from the Society of Business Editors and Writers and the Newswomen’s Club of New York.
Below is a video that shares a behind-the-scenes look at the series.