Don’t mess with NoDak

Want a free trip to Fargo? Diss Fargo.

Reporter Mandi Woodruff of Business Insider has found — to her soon-to-be-discovered delight, perhaps — that it works.

In August, she wrote “Why I’d Never Move to North Dakota.”

The job market. No one can simply look at employment rates for a state and count on finding a job in their field. North Dakota’s economy may be booming, but that’s mostly due to its mining and shale industry. I didn’t go to journalism school to work on an oil rig. And according to, the average reporter in Fargo, N.D. nets only a little more than $31,000 per year.

The social scene. Though the state has one of the highest ratios of 20-24 year olds to the rest of the population, its largest city, Fargo, has fewer than 200,000 residents. Although I do have a couple of friends there who claim they love it, let’s just say they visit me more than I visit them.

And then there’s that diversity thing. And the vibe, or lack of it, she says.

That ticked off the people of Fargo. A Fargo Forum columnist took particular exception and now the convention and visitors bureau there is going to fly her out to NoDak this weekend.

She’s thrilled. Sort of.

I plan on hanging out with a ton of locals, checking out a college football game, the nightlife, the business scene, and hitting the streets on my own to see exactly why everyone seems to think this is the best state to be young in America.

As far as pre-trip research goes, just about everyone’s ordered me to watch the 1996 eponymous film, “Fargo,” and I’ve had some help from The Inforum columnist Sam Benshoof in rounding up tips from locals on where to visit. Later this afternoon, I’ll chat with radio host Christopher Gabriel on W-DAY.

It’s not the first time someone took a shot at North Dakota and got a reaction.

In January 2008, National Geographic’s “The Emptied Prairie” suggested the state was full of people waiting to die…

What happens is that some people cash in on their property and move someplace warmer and easier. The rest grow old and die. There are constant funerals: One guy leaving the bar stops by and Perry asks him if he is going to a service, and he says, “No, I’m all funeraled up this week.” Church attendance dwindles, congregations become mixtures of various denominations, and when those numbers fall too far, the doors shut. Sometimes a congregation decides to burn the building to end the pain.

The magazine followed it up a few months later with “The Ghost Towns of North Dakota.

That earned a sharp rebuke from Gov. John Hoeven …

There is certainly growth and opportunity in North Dakota these days, but more importantly, there is a mood of optimism across the land. At the same time, we are working hard to take our efforts to the next level, and an article that showcases the spirit, inventiveness and progress we’re making would certainly be in order. I encourage you to take a broader look at our state and help us convey to the world what North Dakotans already know: that North Dakota is a great place in which to live, work, visit, study, have fun, and do business.

Other North Dakotans piped up, too, in defense of their state.

You don’t have to live there, but don’t mess with North Dakota.

  • Sometimes I think the local media overdoes these things… I love the movie Fargo, but listing it as required research before visiting Fargo doesn’t seem all that relevant. I’m glad this reporter is taking time to explore Fargo on her own though. Hopefully with a few hints so she’s not just hanging out at West Acres all day… but I assume she’s not looking for a mall.

  • Jim Shapiro

    The Coen bros Fargo is a relevant must regardless of where one plans to visit.

    Minot, Minneapolis, Madagascar, the Moon, or just the couch.

  • allie

    I married a North Dakotan, and was totally Minnesota-elitist about it until I actually visited the tiny town in the smack-middle of North Dakota, where he’s from.

    I’m converted. To those who look down on ND, I say: Screw ’em. More big sky for me.

  • Tyler

    Also, missle silos and a drone base.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Tyler – Missile silos are so last century.

    And before ye try to remove the ICBM from your neighbor’s field, perhaps ye should pluck the drones out of Camp Ripley. :- )

  • Bismuth

    Dave Barry wrote a column poking fun at North Dakota a while back. The city of Grand Forks responded by naming a sewage pump station after him.

  • Robert Moffitt

    I also married a NoDaker. Mock her home state at your own risk — I don’t.

  • Bob Collins

    // ye should pluck the drones out of Camp Ripley. :- )

    I believe they’re in Grand Forks.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – Right you are. Camp Ripley AND Grand Forks AFB.

    And according to DOD documents released by Wired, 62 other sites around the country as well.

  • Rachel

    I grew up in North Dakota. First of all, there’s more to the state than Fargo. Go to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park at the western end of the state. It’s absolutely beautiful.

    I can (and do) make fun of North Dakota because I lived there until I was 24. People who have never been to North Dakota should visit the state before they pass judgment.