NPR : Tell Me More

Reporting On The Shutdown ... One Facebook Post At A Time

Play associated audio

Shutting down the government is nothing new; Congress did it 18 years ago, suspending federal operations for three weeks.

History suggests Americans will accept the inconvenience for the duration, and Congress eventually will find a compromise.

But what if history is bunk? What if what we think we know about government shutdowns doesn't apply to this one?

The current shutdown is very different from the Clinton-era event in two important ways.

First, this government disruption stems from a profound policy disagreement: Some conservatives want to defund or delay the nation's new health care law and Democrats object. In 1995, the shutdown was tied to a simple disagreement over dollar amounts — an easier problem to solve if you are trying to meet in the middle.

And second, back in 1995, the story of the shutdown was being told by traditional media outlets. TV news shows, newspapers and magazines sent reporters out to cover the shutdown's impact. The outlets reported whatever could be learned from the reporters they could afford to pay.

But this time, the story is being covered for free by millions of Americans posting photos and comments online. On Facebook pages, people are sharing photos of themselves being turned away from national parks and walking away from empty federal offices.

Parents are using social media to fret about their college-age children getting thrown out of federal internships. Eighth-graders are using texts and Twitter to discuss the cancelation of their class trip to Washington.

No government shutdown has ever been covered directly by the people, for the people. In such a radically different media environment, how will this story play out? Will the winners and losers turn out to be quite different from those whom the political experts now expect?

Is history any guide at all when the people writing that history are doing it on smartphones?

Below are just a few of the reports Tell Me More got Tuesday from average Americans. The stories that people are telling each other may reshape our political debates in ways yet unimagined.

Here are their voices:

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Yaya Alafia's Songs Of Strength For Her Baby Boy

2013 was a big year for actress and model Yaya Alafia. She starred in three films and had a baby boy. Alafia shares the songs reflecting those experiences for Tell Me More's series 'In Your Ear.'
NPR

Bake Bread Like A Pioneer In Appalachia ... With No Yeast

Bacteria can make a bread rise and give it a cheesy flavor. That's the secret ingredient in salt rising bread, which dates to the late 1700s in Appalachia, when bakers didn't have yeast on hand.
NPR

Obama Assures Japan Of U.S. Security Commitment

The president is on the first stop in an eight-day trip to Asia that also will see him visit Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea.
NPR

The Price War Over The Cloud Has High Stakes For The Internet

Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others are competing to be the main landlords of the cloud. Their terms and prices could control who gets to build what on the Internet, and for how much.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.