Our blog post last week talked about GPO’s 150-year history of keeping America informed. But what does this mean in today’s media-saturated world?
Has the proliferation of media eroded our shared national experience?
[Figure 1. U.S. History Collage. Image courtesy of Mrs. Rice’s American History II class, Lexington High School, Lexington, Ohio.
Two weeks ago in a social media seminar for Federal Government, David Kirkpatrick (technology writer for the Daily Beast and Fortune magazine and author of a new insider book on Facebook) gave some startling statistics: 50% of Facebook’s 800 million users worldwide visit Facebook daily and up to 500 million have accessed Facebook on a single day, with the average Facebook user having over 130 “friends.”
But even more surprising, he said that 50% of Americans today now get their news and analysis about important events— sometimes edited or changed as it is passed along— from friends and family, often via social networks, text or email rather than from traditional media sources.
Prior to the 21st century, when Americans had only a few national media choices and limited local media, we would all receive the same original message at the same time, thus creating a shared American experience.
Today, in the U.S. alone Americans can choose to receive information from any of an estimated 1,476 daily newspapers; 1,500 television stations; 10,322 radio stations; 71 million cable television subscribers with hundreds of TV channels each; and more than 12 billion web pages and social media.
Kirkpatrick and others say the combination of the “Facebook effect”, media proliferation, and message selectivity have contributed to the erosion of our common, shared national experience.
GPO’s role in preserving our common American experience
As we mentioned in our blog last week, GPO’s mission for over 150 years has been “Keeping America Informed” about the three branches of the Federal Government. This mission drives us to ensure the original information produced by Federal Agencies on behalf of the American people can be found by all Americans now and in the future.
What’s involved in capturing and disseminating our common Governmental information? It starts with gathering the content from Federal Agencies and publishing it in a professional format, whether print or digital. It then continues with authenticating the information to ensure Americans are getting the “genuine” unaltered information; creating permanent records with our catalog teams for our own FDSys digital database and Catalog of Government Publications; distributing these records to libraries in our Federal Depository Library Program and to worldwide library databases like WorldCat; and sending physical copies and/or ebooks to libraries, bookstores and book etailers.
View this video for an inside look at how GPO assembles and prints the Congressional Record—the official record of the proceedings, debates, and activities of Congress.
To keep America informed digitally, we allow users to subscribe to email newsletters by topic and are also now on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare and Yelp.
GPO Publications about shared American experiences
Here are some of my favorite Federal publications GPO has published that document significant shared American experiences over the past century. Do you remember when and how you learned of these events?
- D-Day Normandy Invasion: D-Day: The 6th of June is a commemorative historical map with graphics and chronology of the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944. (You can find this set in our online bookstore.)
- Launch of the Space Race and the Cold War following Sputnik: Rockets and People, Volume III, Hot Days of the Cold War tells the inside story of the Soviet space program from the Russians’ perspective. (You can find this book in our online bookstore or a library.)
- Moon landing and the Apollo Space Program: Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions tells of the engineering and scientific accomplishments that allowed a human to step away from his home planet for the first time. (You can find this book in our online bookstore or a library.)
- Fall of Saigon and the Vietnam War: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Vol. X, Vietnam, January 1973-July 1975 covers U.S. policy towards Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from the signing of the Paris Peace Accords to the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh in April 1975. (You can find this book in our online bookstore or a library.)
- Watergate and Resignation of President Nixon: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1974 covers all the public messages, statements and speeches made by Richard Nixon during the last year of his presidency from January to his resignation on August 9, 1974. (You can find this book in our online bookstore or a library.)
- 9/11 Terrorist Attacks: The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States details the events and the causes and response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (You can find this book in our online bookstore or a library.)
- Hurricane Katrina: Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned describes how the Government responded to this disaster and recommendations for the future of U.S. emergency preparedness and response. (You can find this book in our online bookstore or a library.)
- Financial Crisis of 2008-9: The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report: Final Report of the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States examined the “causes, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States.” (You can find this book in our online bookstore or a library.)
- BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico: Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, Report to the President reviews the causes and responses to the disastrous explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. (You can find this book in our online bookstore or a library.)
What are some of the significant national experiences that you will never forget and how did you learn about them and share them with others?
We would love to hear from you!
About the Author: Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for marketing the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.
“The 9/11 Commission Report:” cannot forget this 9/11.
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I believe everything typed was actually very logical.
However, what about this? what if you added a little information?
I am not saying your information isn’t good., but suppose you added a title that grabbed a person’s attention?
I mean Losing our Shared National Experience?
| Government Book Talk is kinda boring. You could glance
at Yahoo’s front page and note how they create article titles to get viewers to click. You might try adding a video or a related pic or two to get people interested about what you’ve got to say.
Just my opinion, it could make your blog a little livelier.
I will never forget the smell of death in new orleans after katrina.
I will never forget the Exxon oil spill around Alaska..
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I’m not so certain that people a long time ago got the news unchanged. Maybe in a pre-Facebook era, sure, but I do a lot of historical research that involves old newspapers, and it can be amazing how a story varied from town to town in the 19th century. A lot of the stories reported were by word of mouth, and with no easy way to fact check, a lot of rumor made the paper.
Seems the most important experience to share is assuring the financial and justice system stability of the country not the tragedies which will get worse when the right things are not done…….
esto es realmente cierto y se ve en todas partes del mundo es un proceso en la cual debemos tomar riendas sobres y ellas y mejorar cada vez mas hacia lo que nuestro pais quiere
This has been a great post on terms of the subjects like BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico,Financial Crisis of 2008-9,Hurricane Katrina:
9/11 Terrorist Attacks:,Watergate and Resignation of President Nixon which are incorporated in this article.Simply loved the article
One of the things that I really miss, and should be a part of our National Experience is the information that use to be available in pamphlet form from the GPO such as the planting and farmer information and pamphlets on home care. I found one on the internet about making your own wind generator, which was quite dated but still very useful. These pamphlets could have been converted to PDF format and put into the GPO library, but I have not seen this to be the case. Many of these “old” pamphlets are still full of useful information. Consider making this older information available to the public again or make it easier to find please.
Alan- Thanks for your question. I sent it on to our amazing librarians in our Federal Depository Library Program office, who had the following reply for you:
I have found that most, especially the younger people, are not all that interested in news, acquiring knowledge or information unless it affects them directly.. most are engrossed with their iPhones and other devices, texting with one another. playing games, music, etc and wrapped up in their own lives….. I suspect if one would take a poll, a good many Americans would not have any idea of what is going on around them for the most part, especially out of this country…nothing will help until the mindset of the people change and I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future..smile…
As for experiences, I enlisted into the USMC, went to San Diego in January of 1963..while I was attending communications school there in the summer, President Kennedy put in an appearance and gave a speech.. while I wasn’t able to shake hands with him or get very close to him, on his departure he did pass by, within several feet and he looked at me, along with others, and smiled.. Little did this Marine realize at the time that in November of that year, I would be preparing to mount out and possibly go to Cuba because President Kennedy was assassinated!!..
Larry: Thank you for your comment and your service to our country! It seems that personal and shared experiences of encountering President Kennedy had a profound effect on many Americans, from the Cuban Missile Crisis to his assassination and his many speeches. My father heard President Kennedy’s “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” speech and joined the Federal Government to give a lifetime in civilian service.
“ . . . ask what you can do for your country” that’s an immortal sentence remembered and followed till yet across the globe by peoples. I wonder how painful mankind’s history is – besides glory coexists assassination i.e. stains of blood! When will we get rid of such notorious game? How long it is to see a peaceful progressive eco-friendly democratic global village?
Un saludo de Enrique
La información que es la base del progreso de las comunidades, sea en los Estados Unidos o el resto del Mundo. Esta siendo la causa de la incertidumbre que existe en la toma de decisiones por parte de personas que se basan principalmente en la lógica en su forma de pensar o actuar, por no expresar las informaciones una estabilidad en beneficio de las poblaciones.
Si la información es la base del progreso, si nos referimos a la facilidad que nunca existió, como hoy, para consultar los avances tecnológicos o las ultimas novedades técnicas referentes a las distintas profesiones o procesos de fabricación. Da también facilidad para que con la infraestructura de la información existente se puedan efectuar consultas y proyectos de dudosos fines y puedan existir manipulaciones de datos dependiendo de los intereses y la interpretación de quien consulta las informaciones,
Tenemos ejemplos recientes como (Wikileaks), que se basan en difundir información sin importar la clase de personas y el entendimiento que posean para interpretar las informaciones difundidas.
Después de tantos años de secretismos y manipulación de las informaciones para veneficiar unos intereses que no beneficiaban el progreso de la población y anteponer el interés monetario al progreso social, que debería ser el fin de toda infraestructura de la información, es fácil comprender que, una vez realizados los avances producidos en los últimos años se ha interpretado tanta información dependiendo de la forma o interés de cada persona o grupo social.Siempre pasara, pues en la Religión tenemos los ejemplos, que partiendo de la misma base documentada se interpreta de maneras diferentes su existencia o razón de servir las poblaciones.
Por ese motivo quien pretende estar informado y según la experiencia que posea en su vida interpretara de una forma u otra la información recibida.
Si los progresos científicos y la aplicación de los mismos son la base del progreso, la Política debería regirse por las mismas reglas, y si solo existe una manera de gestionar el planeta para que en el futuro, (que lo sera, tarde o temprano) la gestión planetaria solo tenga la meta del progreso de las generaciones y no de algunos dentro de las generaciones.
Enrique: Gracias por su comentario. Thanks for your comments.
It’s Natural Regulation, like in the past our ancestors lived with Socrates, Moses, Confucius, Jesus,etc., French – Industry Revolution, WWII, etc.; Those all are naturals like our process in our lived : Cry baby until create the languages and then computerized of the books and so implementation. This is the main invent of the mankind……!!!!!