Lou Ziegler column: Youthful voices sought for 'Saving North Dakota'
This is a loud call to hear young, fresh voices say what needs to be done to stop 18- to 34-year-olds from moving out of North Dakota. For years, well-meaning leaders have tried to find ways to keep people, especially the young, from moving away ...
This is a loud call to hear young, fresh voices say what needs to be done to stop 18- to 34-year-olds from moving out of North Dakota.
For years, well-meaning leaders have tried to find ways to keep people, especially the young, from moving away by the thousands.
Their solutions largely haven't worked.
Oh, some will dispute that by pointing to occasional successes. They'll spin numbers and cite a few examples.
However, let's not put a happy face on this depressing evisceration of the population. Let's not lose focus:
An independent, statewide poll recently conducted for The Forum forecasts substantial population losses in North Dakota during the next five years.
Reporting work for that poll is continuing and will appear in "Agenda 2003: Saving North Dakota," a series to be published in December.
The Forum's newsroom is committed to keeping "depopulation" on the front burner through North Dakota's legislative session, which begins in January.
"Saving North Dakota" won't be a rehash of what you already know. We're trying our best to make it an analytical, solutions-based project that will give legislators more knowledge for ways to cut the losses.
We want those likeliest to leave to have a big say in this.
The Forum plans to hold a "Roundtable" meeting in the next two or three months with a panel exclusively of 18-to-34 year-olds, who'll discuss "depopulation."
Our Readers' Board, which consists of people from all walks of life, endorsed the idea of limiting the panelists to that age group.
They hope Roundtable participants suggest what can be done to keep them in the Peace Garden State.
They want these new voices to leave the Roundtable with candid comments for the policymakers on what makes them want to move on.
We want diversity on the panel: single and married moms and dads, newcomers, long-time residents, those from the farmlands and those who live in apartments along city streets.
We want a cross-section of occupations on our panel of up to 35 people.
What we do not want for this special Roundtable: the so-called "experts" and "spokespersons" from various interest groups. They'll certainly lend their ideas to the "Saving North Dakota" series.
The Roundtable will be held at a location outside The Forum. We're now looking for a place.
We also plan to keep ourselves out of the Roundtable. An experienced facilitator, not connected with Forum Communications Co., will be brought in to run the two-hour meeting.
For all we know, maybe panelists will say our news coverage is part of the problem. Maybe there will be suggestions to make the newspaper part of any solutions.
This isn't about The Forum. It is about this newspaper's campaign to keep alive discussion about a population that is dying.
Calling the series a "campaign" gives the sense that we come into this project with a point of view. In this case, we do. We believe the loss of many of the best and brightest in North Dakota and western Minnesota weighs far more bad than good.
We'll show you why in the series.
A dozen reporters, photographers, graphics artists and editors are involved to different degrees in "Agenda 2003: Saving North Dakota."
The project also includes stories of depopulation in western Minnesota.
It is a big commitment of resources, but I cannot think of a better one.
Please, if you'd like to be on the panel -- if you are 18-34 years old -- contact me by telephone or e-mail.
No matter what your age: If you have suggestions for better ways to deal with the depopulation problem, or if you'd like to be part of our brainstorming, let me know.
If you have ideas about people to interview, or stories to do -- including the impact population losses are having on where you or your family live -- let me know.
If your son or daughter has moved away due to a lack of opportunity here, let me know.
Or if they've returned because of what this state has to offer, I'd like to hear from you.
If you just moved here, or have decided to stay or leave during your retirement years, take the opportunity to lend your voices to this project.
Yes, please think what you can do to help in "Saving North Dakota."
Ziegler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-241-5520