Monke Portfolio

Note: This page is under construction as I gradually add more of my archived articles.

Best of the Best

News Features

A long night rememberedThere are literally hundreds of stories and different accounts of the night an EF-3 tornado struck the south side of Dickinson on July 8, 2009. Five years later, we take a look at three families — two of them next-door neighbors — and what they went through that day and in the tornado’s aftermath

The boom’s ‘epicenter:’ Oil Patch hub Watford City adjusts to burgeoning population, financial questions: There are days, Brent Sanford said, when he struggles to wrap his head around everything happening in his hometown. Ten years ago, Sanford returned to Watford City to take over his family’s automotive dealership. He soon found himself on the city council and was elected mayor in 2010 — right as oil and gas exploration in the Bakken shale formation was beginning to put a stranglehold on northwest North Dakota communities. Today, Sanford and other Watford City leaders are facing challenges few small towns in America ever have to endure. All the while, he said, they’re trying to keep their once-quiet community from becoming just another “dirty oil town.”

Dickinson businesses begin feeling slowdown’s effect: Steve Keinzle noticed a change around the first of the year. The manager of Mac’s Hardware in north Dickinson said his business catered to many oilfield service companies, both big and small — mostly hot-shot crews and roustabout companies — that would come in and buy everything from tools to flame-retardant gear for employees. But when the oil prices dropped out, so did much of that business. (Part of Inland Newspaper Association Investigative Reporting series first-place award.)

Expendable industry: Oilfield service companies, workers deal with layoffs in wake of low oil prices: A few weeks ago, a man walked into Command Center, a temporary labor and staffing service in downtown Dickinson, and said he needed a job after being laid off from a high-paying position on an oil rig. The man said he’d only work for $35 an hour, needed a minimum of 50 hours guaranteed each week, and wanted his housing paid for along with a $150 a day per diem. After realizing the man wasn’t joking, staffing specialist Rena Olheiser responded in the kindest manner she could muster. “Well good luck with that,” she said with a smile. (Part of Inland Newspaper Association Investigative Reporting series first-place award.)

Bringing back Bailey: Couple reunites with lost golden retriever 2 months after she went missing in Oil PatchBailey can be a handful. A loveable, smiling and prancing handful of soft, golden fur. On Wednesday afternoon, the 13-month-old purebred golden retriever — still very much a puppy at heart — tore around a Dickinson apartment. She played with her toys, teased a cat and nuzzled up to whoever would pet her. Bailey was happy. She was home.

A place for gamers and geeks: John Nyman and John Odermann are kindred spirits. Each man considers himself to be a “geek.” While they’re geekiness isn’t exactly the same, they’ve decided it could make for a great business partnership. The Dickinson men have opened a store together where they hope other so-called geeks can come together and enjoy their hobbies and interests. “Geeks tend to stick together,” Odermann said with a smile. “We like to talk to each other about the things that we like.”

Hard and spot news

Receiver recommends dissolving DSU Foundation: The attorney appointed as financial receiver for the Dickinson State University Foundation says the foundation’s money issues are so bad, it will have to be dissolved.

Cutbacks in the Bakken: Baker Hughes layoff of 117 employees biggest signal yet of slowdownFalling oil prices and the resulting oil drilling slowdown in the Bakken Oil Patch has led one of the world’s largest oilfield services companies to make major cutbacks at its Dickinson office.

Remains of ‘construction worker’ found in north Dickinson:  Law enforcement agencies spent much of Friday exhuming the decomposed human remains of an unidentified “apparent construction worker,” discovered late Thursday at a worksite in north Dickinson.

Shooting claims life: Man shot ‘multiple times’ outside Dickinson apartment complexA man who was shot multiple times after a verbal altercation Sunday evening at a Dickinson apartment complex has died, the Dickinson Police Department said. Police Chief Dustin Dassinger identified the man killed as 37-year-old David Porter in a statement Monday afternoon.

Barking dog ‘savior’ for family during home fireA barking dog named Pebbles helped save the lives of a Dickinson woman and her daughter as a fire was destroying their home early Sunday morning. Amber Beld and her 10-year-old daughter, Simone, escaped the house unharmed but lost most of their possessions because of a fire that the Dickinson Fire Department believes was the result of smoldering ashes from a backyard fire pit.

Serenity in the Bakken: TRNP North Unit balancing beauty against oil boom’s impact: Ron Sams remembers a time when very little of note happened here. The U.S. law enforcement park ranger worked in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park from 1999 to 2001 before being transferred through the Department of the Interior. He returned to the North Unit in 2008, just as the Bakken oil boom and all that came with it was beginning to dig into the northwest part of North Dakota.


Hettinger 4, Regent 2: Players, coaches and officials recall the infamous low-scoring basketball game: An oral history of a 1992 high school basketball game between two small-town southwest North Dakota teams who played to one of the lowest-score totals in U.S. history.

For New England, reaching state tournament is ‘dream come true’The party didn’t stop after the post-game celebration. In New England, the revelry for winning the Region 7 boys basketball championship game last Thursday night in Dickinson lingered until the team and fans got home. Then it spilled over onto the city’s Main Street, led by fire trucks blasting sirens, a stream of cars honking horns, and the hoots and hollers of fans in this town of about 650 people relishing something that hasn’t occurred in nearly a generation. New England, with only 69 kids in high school, will be both the smallest school and community participating in this year’s Class B state tournament, which begins today at the Bismarck Event Center.

Killdeer starter may miss tourney game after father’s death, Cougars coach offers support: 


Ready for life with little Monke: I’d never in my life cried tears of joy until Thursday afternoon. It happened the moment I met my son, Grant Bennett Monke.

Stop trashing our town and pick up your $#!+: No one has ever considered me a hippie environmentalist. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people who treat the land like it’s one big trash can.

A generation stuck in transition: In life, we strike a balance between Generation X realism and Millennials optimism. So what is our place?

Still building a dream: You see them every day. In supermarkets, at your job or school, as you sit down to eat, or when you drive past a construction site. Almost everywhere you look in southwest North Dakota, people are achieving the so-called “American Dream.” (This column was written as the introduction to The Dickinson Press’ annual Progress edition.)

Tales of a typical North Dakota harvest: I spent eight of the last 12 days in August on what amounted to be a working vacation as I helped my dad and brother harvest their durum, spring wheat and canola crop.

An enlightening 12-hour drive around the Bakken: Five years ago, the drive from Dickinson to Williston was considered boring by some and peaceful by others. Western North Dakota’s quiet beauty and emptiness, accentuated by Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit, surrounded dying towns such as Grassy Butte, Arnegard and Alexander. Today, the 132-mile trek is a scene of semi trucks lumbering up and down hills, wild pickup drivers with out-of-state plates, vast crew camps, random infrastructure construction, dirt (Oh God, the dirt!) and, most importantly, oil rigs and wells.

Noodle the schoodle, our lovable yet socially awkward dog: Columnist John Grogan was onto something when he started writing columns about his crazy Labrador retriever named Marley. Like most people who have seen the movie “Marley and Me,” I laughed and even got choked up by watching the antics of the crazy dog that inspired the former newspaper columnist to compile a book of stories Hollywood ultimately turned into a film. After watching it a few years ago, I wondered if I would ever have a dog so lovably ridiculous it would compel me write about him or her. Then, last September, Noodle the schnoodle came along.

North Dakota Newspaper Association First-place awards
Feature Reporting: “A long night remembered”
Business News Reporting: “Geeks of the Badlands”
Personal Column, Serious: “It’s all worth it in the end”
Personal Column, Humorous: “Noodle vs. The Bunny”
Best Editorial Page

Best Sports Column: “Moore set a standard for DSU athletes”
Feature Photo: “Cooling down before the show”
Best Editorials
Best Editorial Page

Sports feature: “Battling bulls again”
Sports reporting series: “Chance for gold”
Sports reporting: “Momentous victory”
Sports photo: “One last leap”
Best Sports Section
Best Sports Columns

Sports Feature: “Career cut short”
Sports Reporting Series: “DSU moves to the Frontier”
Best Sports Section
Best Sports Columns

Sports Feature: “What Drives Derion?”
Sports Columns: “Cash is king in all levels of college sports”
Sports Reporting Series: “Downfall of the DAC”
Best Sports Section

Sports Feature: “Heading in hot”
Agriculture Photo: “Harvest gets under way”
Sports Photo: “Race to the finish”
Best Sports Section

Sports Feature: “Back on the mat”

Sports Feature: “Accepting fame”
Best Sports Columns

Sports Feature: “Shaped by war”

Inland Daily Press Association
First place, Investigative Reporting, “What’s next? The oil slowdown in western North Dakota”  Expendable industry and Dickinson businesses begin feeling slowdown’s effect
First place, Community Leadership Award, “Dickinson State University Foundation Investigation”
Second place, Editorial excellence
(Editor and contributing writer in all awards)

First place, Community Leadership Award, “Dickinson State University Foundation Investigation”
(Editor and contributing writer)

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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