Education

C-Span Rolls into Boardman High School

BOARDMAN, Ohio – For Brandon Jackson, C-Span’s “50 Capitals Bus Tour” presented an opportunity to not only learn a little more about how government operates, but experience firsthand how public affairs is covered in the media.

The Boardman High School senior was busy working the video camera and handling the microphone for the school’s broadcasting network, interviewing representatives from C-Span and local elected officials who participated in a morning informational session with students.

“It’s great to hear about how government works,” Jackson said. “But, it’s also great to see how politics and government are covered.”

C-Span, an acronym for the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, stopped at Boardman High School Tuesday morning as part of its “50 Capitals Bus Tour,” which kicked off in September. The 45-foot coach bus serves as a mobile broadcast studio as the network rolls across the country, stopping in communities to bring their stories to millions of viewers. Later in the afternoon, the bus made another stop at Poland High School.

“The goal of the C-Span bus is to introduce students to a new resource,” said Doug Hemmig, community relations and marketing director at the network. “It’s also an opportunity to interact with teachers and let them know of the rich content we have, and they can teach government and civics using our network.”

C-Span was created in 1979 and is funded by the cable television industry. Since 1993, the network has used buses to visit communities outside of Washington D.C., where the network is based. These mobile C-Span units are used to cover national landmarks, book festivals, presidential museums and birthplaces, schools, and a host of other sites across the country.

In September, in commemoration of 25 years of driving America’s highways, C-Span kicked off its state capitals tour, in which the bus will visit all 50 state capital buildings. It concludes in November 2018.

“The idea of the state capitals tour is to give people some exposure to the different state houses,” Hemmig said. While at the capital, the broadcast bus team explores contemporary issues, history, and other public concerns relevant to each state. Governors, cabinet members and assembly members are often invited as guests to lend their perspectives.

In between, the C-Span bus visits on average about two schools a day as it makes its way across the country, Hemmig said.

“What’s encouraging is that the students are really engaged in the issues,” Hemmig noted. “They have their own opinions, they watch the news and they interact with each other.”

There are usually a handful of students who are interested in pursuing a career in government or politics, Hemmig has observed. “But, even for those who don’t, it’s important for them to understand what goes on in Washington – whether they’re business owners, doctors or lawyers.”

Ohio state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, and state Rep. John Boccieri, D-Poland, were on hand to brief students about their careers in government before students boarded the bus for a tour.

Schiavoni, who is vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor next year, told students that he became involved in public service because he became disconcerted with political leadership in Ohio.

“When I think about myself 10 years ago, it was frustrating to hear politicians talk about nothing,” he said. “People want someone who cares about them and listens.”

He said he’s worked especially hard on education issues, employment concerns, and blight removal in the community –important factors that he said help elevate the Mahoning Valley’s quality of life. “We need jobs in the Mahoning Valley in order to keep our young people here.”

Boccieri told students to expect a much more dynamic working career than in previous generations, noting that it’s likely this slate of young people will change jobs seven times on average throughout the course of their careers.

“A lot of our decisions are being driven by technology, AI [artificial intelligence], and automation,” he told students. “Your futures are very exciting and government has a relevant role in your lives.”

Joel Bacon, C-Span representative, told students on the bus that the network takes pride in its non-partisan coverage of governmental affairs in an era when other news networks have become increasingly biased. “There are people on these networks who are paid to give their personal opinions,” he said. “You’re never going to see anyone at C-Span giving our personal opinions. We think that’s really important. We take a topic an really go in-depth.”

The C-Span bus, a $1.2 million coach that is equipped with an array of digital displays instead of passenger seats near the front, acts as its own broadcast station, Bacon told students. “We turn this into an entire production studio,” he said, gesturing to two high definition cameras mounted in the rear of the vehicle.

Here, the network has set up a small backdrop with the C-Span logo behind several plush seats from which an interviewer can chat with a guest, Bacon said. “We can do live TV from this bus – we just launched it this year.”

Hemmig said it’s important for educators and students to understand the resources available through C-Span’s website. “We have more than 200,000 hours of video library content that teachers and students can use in the classroom,” he said.

One-on-one interviews, special programs, and the network’s standard live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate serve as invaluable primary sources that can be included in any civic or history curriculum, Hemmig added.

Moreover, Hemmig said it’s important that young people understand how government impacts them. “We want to share this resource so they can make decisions someday that affect their lives.”

Pictured: C-Span community relations and marketing director Doug Hemmig shows Boardman High School students how the network’s bus doubles as a production studio.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.