At times Craig and Julie Sautner have felt isolated from the lack of government response to their local disaster by agencies at all three levels of government. The Saunters and a handful of neighbors around Carter Road in Dimock, Pennsylvania had their drinking water contaminated by a natural gas drilling process known as ‘fracking’. By bringing attention to their plight, the State established a nine square mile drilling moratorium in the area making them a pariah to area residents and drilling companies hoping to capitalize on the natural gas boom in northeastern Pennsylvania and the multistate area known as the Marcellus Formation.
With the homes on and around Carter Road drinking water poisoned by chemicals associated with natural gas drilling making the homes uninhabitable without the delivery of “buffaloes” of drinking water, the Sautners have become the “squeaky wheels” and unintended social network hub for neighbors demanding action. With the attention they drew to their personal cause through traditional media starting with an June 2010 article in Vanity Fair, speaking at rallies about the environmental dangers of fracking, and giving interviews to the likes of Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes and Robert Kennedy, Jr, they were able to attract high-powered allies in the Sierra Club, the Water Defense led by actor Mark Ruffalo, independent filmmaker Josh Fox of “Gasland”, and the mayors of several Upstate New York cities including Binghamton’s Mayor Mathew Ryan.
Although the Sautners have used traditional media for drawing attention to their cause and have had the advantage of physical proximity to the small group of neighbors, they do see the value for increasing the use of social media. Craig and Julie have been featured in numerous YouTube videos which allow them to state their case with every new view. Although they do most networking through their almost constantly ringing landline, they see the advantage of using Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about meetings, rallies and fundraising events. The bottom line according to Julie is that “we’re Americans, we have a voice” and Craig advises anyone in the position of David facing Goliath to “speak up” and “fight back”.
How do you think social media can be better used to augment traditional means of gaining media attention for a cause?