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.
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.