The paper: Roughneck is a two-year-old monthly covering oil and gas in Sublette County, Wyo., the top natural gas producing county in the U.S.
Local media scene: Two local weeklies, including the Pinedale Roundup, cover community news; Roughneck’s only competitor is the international Oil & Gas Journal.
The story: "I’m an accidental journalist," says Rob Shaul, Roughneck’s founder. When I moved back to the Pinedale area, where my family has lived for five generations, I brought some (columns) to the Pinedale Roundup, and they never got back to me. I thought the Roundup was splashy but shallow. So I started the Sublette County Journal in my spare bedroom. Five years later, I bought out the Roundup. Then I started Roughneck as an insert, offering separate online subscriptions."
The battle plan: Shaul wanted to cover the industry from a local perspective. "The people I interviewed ranged from corporate CEOs to operational engineers to guys working in the gas fields," he says.
Notable stories: Breaking news about ramped-up drilling and air pollution, workers using methamphetamine, other community impacts.
Advice: "In small-town journalism, a lot of the stories are the same, year after year. You work a lot of hours, for low pay. It grinds you down. And it’s difficult to be courageous and call a spade a spade. I always had to pull the trigger, and it cost me thousands of dollars of advertising, and friendships."
The surprise ending: "I sold the Roundup and Roughneck to a newspaper chain two months ago. I’m thinking of starting a magazine covering the energy industry in this hemisphere, from Canada to South America."
One-year subscriptions to the Roughneck cost $40. Call 307-367-2123 or visit www.rough-neck.com.
This story is a sidebar to the feature
The Crested Butte News, a successful independent newspaper in a small Rocky Mountain town, has come full circle and is once again owned by a chain