Finding myself in the middle of everywhere

“Where did you move again, Montana?” my client in California asked.

“Actually North Dakota,” I said proudly.

“Oh, wow. Even more remote.”

(Yup.)

 

On August 28, 2014, about 1 month before we launched Intersection Journal, I visited Rugby, ND, to venture into the center of it all.  Literally.  With the help of Dan Smith, I went looking for the actual center of North America, not the fabled landmark that sits outside a diner in Rugby (the actual center sits about 20 miles South of Rugby in a lonely, inconspicuous slough).

 

When we arrived, we got out of the truck and walked to the edge of the pond water. The feeling was incredible. I felt the inescapable reality that I was immersed in something amazing.

 

Here was the exact spot:

 

Near Rugby, ND

I was in the middle of EVERYWHERE.  I couldn’t be further away from NYC or LA, and couldn’t be more imbedded in America.  There was just as much USA to my left as there was to my right.

 

When standing in the middle, I thought to myself: “I get to live in North Dakota.  I get to live here in the middle of everywhere.  Everyone else is out there and I get to live in here.”  I felt bad for those who hadn’t experienced the feeling of being in the center of it all.

 

I can’t think of a more perfect setting to begin Intersection Journal’s adventure.  We started at the very heart of it all and will work our way out, the same as we do for each and every story.

 

Why we’re starting Intersection Journal from the least expected place in the country

 

Maybe it’s the heritage of pioneers that came to this place before me and built something from nothing, maybe it’s the “haunting and beautiful desolation” of the Badlands that Teddy Roosevelt described, but either way, Intersection Journal could only be launched from the Middle of Everywhere.  Being in the middle of it all has given me intense clarity.  This place holds a sense of fascination for those that have never seen it for themselves, and even more fascination for those who have.

 

San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where I grew up, is a hotbed of innovation and ideas. It would have made sense to stay there, where I had my commercial photography career and boatloads of creative inspiration. But being away from California has actually provided more inspiration because I am so isolated from the rest of the media world. It let me gel my thoughts and solidify the purpose of Intersection Journal without feeling distracted by what others have done before me. There are so many media outlets, and we are all trying to figure out how to make a sustainable living from journalism. In order to be truly innovative, you have to be void of outside influences, you have to listen to your instincts and risk it all.

 

It was important to me that Intersection Journal took on a life of its own and that it formed its own identity. And it has, thanks to this region’s resilience guiding me the entire way.

 

How did you get 12,000+ shares on that story?!

 

My family and I moved to ND in April of 2014 and launched in September of the same year. We published 5 stories about North Dakota and the response was humbling and overwhelming.

 

Approximately 31,000 visitors came to the site and viewed 50,000 pages.  One of our lead stories was shared 12,000 times on social media (now up to 13k).

 

McKenzie County Fair, 2014Many people have asked how we created such a stir, how Intersection Journal attracted so many visitors and what we did to encourage that level of sharing.  While I don’t fully understand how we garnered so much attention, here’s what I do know:

 

1.  Our readers were starved for authentic stories. Media coverage about North Dakota up until that point was incredibly sensationalized or surface level, and the portrayal of “The Bakken” was reminiscent of Wild West lawlessness, that people were generally unsafe and that it was a place that you don’t want to get out of your car (all untrue).

 

2.  The cultural foundation of our community was mentioned only briefly or ignored altogether.  There were many untold stories about the foundation, heritage, backbone and culture of the region. Everything was focused on oil.

 

Don’t get me wrong, some of Intersection Journal’s stories were centered around oil too, but as I’ve said many times that we didn’t come to North Dakota because of the oil, we came to North Dakota to tell the story of North Dakota.  It was simply a case where we couldn’t tell the story of North Dakota without discussing oil.

 

3.  The foundation of our stories was, and will continue to be, photography.  A photograph conveys emotion, information or both INSTANTANEOUSLY.

 

A word story must be absorbed over a period of time, as does video.  The emotional and informational impact is cumulative, after the reader/viewer spends time with the content.  But the power of a photograph is immediate.

 

That is why pictures can be so compelling – the impact is instant.  A large amount of information is transferred to the reader in a short time, making the story easy to understand.  When it’s easier to understand, it’s easier to share.

 

Demolition Derby, Watford City, 2014

That’s all great. How on earth is this a sustainable business?

 

So the big question is, with all of the vision, inspiration and audience engagement in the world, how do we make it sustainable as a business?

 

Revenue is based on readership, and readership comes with compelling content.  We can’t put the cart before the horse.  We must first create world-class content that tells fiercely authentic stories about our culture.  

 

Then, our income (through sponsorships) will be dependent on our readership and audience engagement.

That is what our Kickstarter campaign is all about.  If you’ve read this far, you are a fan of Intersection Journal and you’re excited to see these incredible stories of resilience come to life.

 

Bakken Oil Fields, 2015

We need your help.

 

The content we build because of this Kickstarter campaign will be our foundation to generate readership, which will be the foundation for sustainability.  The success of Intersection depends on you.  On May 20, 2016, our Kickstarter campaign will end.  If we have not reached our funding goal of $29,000, we will not receive any of the contributions that have been made so far.

 

You read that right – we either make 100% of our goal or we get $0.

 

If you and your friends contribute $1, and continue to share these stories and tell others about why this is so important to our culture in the Middle of Everywhere, we won’t have any problem reaching our goal.  I ask with great respect to consider a contribution of any amount.  Don’t let Intersection Journal cease to exist, don’t miss the opportunity to bring these stories to life.

 

Here is the link – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1059831060/intersection-journal

 

Thank you for your support, thank you for contributing and thank you for sharing.  More so, thank you for telling your friends that you contributed and why they should too.

 

Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota can’t afford to miss this opportunity.  We need to celebrate our resilience and show the world why we love to live in the Middle of Everywhere.  Intersection Journal is honored for the privilege to tell your story with pictures and we can’t wait to do more.  Onward and upward!

 

About Intersection Journal

Telling authentic stories in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota with photography.  

We are so excited for our relaunch on May 3, 2016.

Join us as we capture the resilience of this amazing region by entering your email address below.

Our recently published GUIDE TO PHOTOGRAPHY is an amazing tool for you to take your photography to the next level.  Packed with insight from world-class photographers, images from real assignments and TWO bonus sections, this guide is a can’t-miss for anyone who wants to make better pictures.  Grab your copy here for FREE.

Our Kickstarter campaign is live!

Help us ensure that the foundation is laid to tell these stories in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.  You can be a part of the relaunch in a big way.  There are a variety of giving levels starting at $1, so please only contribute what you can afford.  See our campaign here – Intersection Journal Kickstarter

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