C-SPAN Comes to Springfield for 50 Capitals Tour


Photographs courtesy of Giang Nguyen


The C-SPAN bus paid a visit to the University of Illinois Springfield campus Wednesday, Sept. 19, as part of its 50 Capitals Tour. Illinois  was  the  41st  stop  on  the  tour, which  started  last  November.  C-SPAN  is  a nonpartisan  television  network  based  out  of  Washington  D.C.  providing  “gavel-to-gavel” coverage from Capitol Hill.

    Students  had  the  opportunity  to  tour  the  bus,  which  featured  tablets  with  videos  and quizzes  to  testtheir  political  knowledge,  as  well  as  a  360  degree  camera  monitor  displaying various national events, a Washington D.C.-themed selfie station and a production control room.

  C-SPAN also collected “Voices from the States,” in which students were asked who they would  like  to  see  control  the  Senate  next  year  and  how  a  change  in  the  majority  party  would affect them.

  The  bus  also  contains  a  studio  where  lawmakers  are  interviewed.  Prior  to  arriving  on campus,  C-SPAN  stopped  by  the  Illinois  State  Capitol  to  host  state  Rep.  Tim  Butler,  R-Springfield, on the Washington Journal morning show.

  In addition to hosting tours, C-SPAN Marketing Representative Joel Bacon spoke with a group of about 60 students studying everything from communication to global studies to biology.

  “We’re not a breaking news network. We’re more like a public record,” Bacon said. “We want people to see what’s actually going on in Washington D.C. without having to tell them.”

   C-SPAN was started in 1979 with a $25,000 investment from a cable network.Today, Bacon said, the station receives just six cents from each person’s cable bill every month.

   Being publicly-funded is what allows C-SPAN to cover Congress without limitations, according to Bacon.

  “We want to make you feel like you’re in the room,” he said. “We want you to see whose hand their shaking on their way in and whose baby they’re kissing on the way out.”

   Ann Strahle, associate professor of communication, invited Bacon to speak to her class. She encourages students to use C-SPAN as a tool to check out their local representatives, see their previous actions, and what they’ve said in the chambers.

  “Students really need to know that they can access that, and they can make their own decisions about who to vote for and who not to vote for based on unbiased coverage of legislative branches,” Strahle said.

    According to C-SPAN Marketing Representative Jenae Green, college students can particularly benefit from the station’s online video library, which contains more than 245,000 segments, along with full transcripts.

    “We all need primary sources when we’re doing papers and presentations,” Green said. “If you type in a topic—whether it’s the economy or taxes—or you type in an elected official’s name…any video that mentions [that keyword] will pop up and take you to where they said it in the video.”

  C-SPAN’s visit also attracted attention from off-campus. Springfield resident Pam Kauerauf saw the bus at a shopping center and decided to see where it was headed.“It was interesting to see their whole setup,” Kauerauf said. “They do their production and their interviews right there in the bus. I had no idea.”