Friday, November 22, 2013

ITVS Joins AIR and Prairie Public Broadcasting to Support Award-Winning Black Gold Boom

(San Francisco, Calif.) November 20, 2013 - ITVS, AIR, and Prairie Public Broadcasting announce a partnership to help boost support for transformative public media work with a new interactive documentary series to be distributed online and on public television through the Localore initiative.

Created by independent producer Todd Melby, the documentary Black Gold Boom and companion transmedia project “Oil Patch: Code Blue” will be completed in 2014.
Minneapolis-based Melby grew up in North Dakota and has witnessed the way the oil boom has transformed the state’s landscape. He is now reporting on it for the national public radio program Marketplace and has been featured on NPR and PBS NewsHour. Melby is a senior producer for the public media nonprofit 2 below zero, a Minneapolis-based public media nonprofit that produces thoughtful and thought-provoking documentaries.


Black Gold Boom is the recipient of two national journalism awards: 2013 Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for best specialized journalism site and 2013 Online News Association award for best feature.

For more about the Black Gold Boom TV project go here.

(ITVS Press Release/Photo by Ben Garvin)

Monday, October 28, 2013

In the Eye of the Boom

What's it like to report on the one of the biggest oil booms in recent history? I tell all, beginning on page 12.

Online News Association award

What do the New York Times, WNYC and Black Gold Boom have in common? All were recent recipients of Online News Association awards for best interactive journalism projects of the past year. I've served as reporter and lead producer of Black Gold Boom, a public media project about North Dakota's oil boom, since its inception in early 2012. The project includes about 50 public radio features and interviews, 10+ videos and an interactive documentary titled, Rough Ride: The Oil Patch Tour. Big thanks to my collaborators at Zeega, Prairie Public and AIR!

Black Gold Boom also won a 2012 Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi awards for best "Specialized Journalism Site" and a regional Edward R. Murrow award for top news series.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oil Patch Code Blue

In September 2013, I completed a four-part series on injuries and deaths in North Dakota oil country. With support from a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant, I explored how a small town ambulance service is coping with the rush of new calls due to the boom, why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) failed to keep pace with workplace investigations, how one woman is mourning the death of her fiancee and examined a legal battle in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The series aired on Prairie Public, the statewide public radio broadcaster in North Dakota, and can be found at Black Gold Boom. You can also listen here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Reuters: Midnight weddings as two states legalize gay marriage

I've worked as a Reuters freelancer for many years. My latest story: Gay couples getting married at Minneapolis City Hall as Minnesota legalizes same-sex unions. More here.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Mid-Year Update

The focus of my recent work continues to be Black Gold Boom, the public media project documenting North Dakota's oil boom. To date, the project has produced about 40 public radio stories, 12 videos and an interactive documentary titled Rough Ride: The Oil Patch Tour. Lots of the radio stories have aired on Marketplace, a video popped up on the PBS NewsHour and Rough Ride generated tons of attention from the Nieman Journalism Lab and folks associated with NPR and the New York Times.

Black Gold Boom was recently awarded a 2012 Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for best "Specialized Journalism Site." In addition, Todd Melby received a McKnight Media Artists Fellowship, administered by IFP-Minnesota and funded by The McKnight Foundation.

Black Gold Boom will continue with new reporting in 2013 - 2014 thanks to several new funders, including the Fund for Investigative Journalism. A big shout out and thanks to our original funder: AIR's Localore.

In the meantime, I can't seem to stop making radio. Here are a few arts stories I produced for the coolest little radio station in America: KFAI.

Rough Ride: The Oil Patch Tour

Dirty. Loud. Male.

Those are the three words I often choose to describe what life is like in western North Dakota’s oil patch. Grease and invert stick to clothes and men’s faces like flies on cattle on a scorching August afternoon. On gravel roads, tankers on their way to oil wells kick up blizzard-like plumes of dust. Drilling wells groan and grind as drill bits dig deep into the earth. Massive trucks carrying trailers, pipes, hay bales, giant barrels — pretty much everything — rumble and screech on narrow two-lane highways.

And men? They’re pretty much everywhere. They wear fire-retardant jump suits and climb down from their rigs in search of man-food and conversation. They drive pickups with macho one-liners like “I Came For the Cash ‘Cause I’m Oil Field Trash.” When they see a woman working at a cafĂ© or truck stop, their eyes light up. They chat. They flirt. Sometimes they’re crude and gross. Newcomers joke about being promised a woman behind every tree. The punch line: In oil country, trees are almost non-existent.

Want to learn more? Come along for a ride with me.

I’ll give you a tour.

(Photo by Ben Garvin)