Losing our Shared National Experience?

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?

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.

21 Responses to Losing our Shared National Experience?

  1. sid says:

    “The 9/11 Commission Report:” cannot forget this 9/11.


  2. renovation says:

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that
    I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!


  3. lms.auaf.edu.af says:

    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.


  4. Sa Pecchin Juancok says:

    I will never forget the smell of death in new orleans after katrina.


  5. Nabeel Miase says:

    I will never forget the Exxon oil spill around Alaska..


  6. Jobs In Mississauga says:

    Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my Facebook group? There’s a lot of people that I expect would absolutely be crazy about your content. Please let me know. Thanks…


  7. Rick Sthill says:

    You can definitely see your skills in the work you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.


  8. Top Travel Destinations says:

    I wanted to follow up and let you know how , a great deal I loved discovering your web blog today. I would consider it an honor to do things at my office and be able to make use of the tips shared on your web site and also take part in visitors’ remarks like this. Should a position connected with guest writer become offered at your end, make sure you let me know.


  9. Kelly says:

    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.


  10. Jeff Thorn says:

    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…….


  11. atencion a clientes en linea says:

    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


  12. akruti says:

    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


  13. Alan Mcgrew says:

    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.


    • GPOBookstore says:

      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:

      If the agency had participated in GPO’s free federal document discovery program and provided us a copy of their document, it may have been permanently indexed and archived and linked on GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications or FDSys.

      Otherwise, Federal pamphlets are available many times on the original authoring agency’s own web site such as this planting fact sheet:

      Additionally, some Federal Agencies now make this information available via databases such as the Hardiness Zone map.

      If there is a specific brochure you see, let us know and we’ll try to uncover the link for you.


  14. Larry Woller says:

    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!!..


    • GPOBookstore says:

      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.


      • Ripon says:

        “ . . . 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?

        Ripon #


  15. Enrique says:

    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.



  16. armansyahardanis says:

    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……!!!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: