Social media is a game-changer for artists and writers. It enables us to share our work globally and to, essentially, be our own marketing teams. Most importantly, it connects us with the world in ways that were previously unattainable.
Our documentary project on Ashley’s Breaker is fast developing into a case study on the powerful impact that social media can have on our craft. Without it, our research and exploration would be lost among the billions of sites on the web.
While there are likely dozens of ways each of us has used social media to share information about the breaker project, the most compelling example started from an unexpected Twitter connection.
When I’m in Ashley – or anywhere that’s outside of my normal routine – I tend to tweet about what I’m doing. I’m a journalist at heart, and Twitter is the perfect platform to engage in some micro reporting. It’s become an important part of my storytelling arsenal, and I tweet as much for myself as for anyone who may (or may not) be reading my posts.
On a recent trip for the breaker project, I tweeted that we had “just interviewed a 94-year-old former miner in West #Pittston.” One of my colleagues – Jill, an economist in the Philadelphia area with whom I had only recently connected via Twitter – re-tweeted me, then tweeted again to say she grew up near #Pittston.
It gets better.
After I sent her our project’s link, she tweeted me back to say that her uncle’s father served as a barber in the town of Ashley for more than 60 years AND he lives right across the street from the Huber Breaker.
So she called her uncle, who connected her with his father, who agreed to sit down for an interview with us the following day.
John Kish turned out to be among our most interesting interviews to date. Although he wasn’t a miner himself, he cut the hair of hundreds of mine employees through the years, bringing a unique perspective to our exploration of the coal culture.
An artist as well, Kish was inspired to create a pencil wood sculpture of the breaker – which we’re trying to track down for this project. (Side note: leads are welcome!)
Despite the fact that I work with Jill at my day job (at a community college in the Philadelphia suburbs), we would have never had this conversation face to face. That’s the power of social media.