Tag Archives: Brian Lamb

C-SPAN worked miracles with this spot

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I want to share a moment regarding my one direct contact with the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network . . . aka C-SPAN.

I’ve already sung the praises of Brian Lamb, the founder of the one national network that covers politics and policy without a hint of bias.

Take another look.

But the folks who put together their video presentations are masters of editing, cutting, pasting and making subjects look a whole lot smarter than they really are. In my case, that’s not all that difficult.

I arrived in the Texas Panhandle in January 1995 to take my post as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News.

That spring, C-SPAN embarked on a project called the “School Bus Tour.” It was sending a yellow bus to every congressional district in the United States. All 435 of them would get a visit from the C-SPAN school bus. Its intent was to educate viewers on the members of Congress representing their constituents living in each of those districts.

The 1991 Texas Legislature had gerrymandered the congressional map in Texas to give Amarillo two House members. The 13th Congressional District comprised the northern portion of the city; the 19th District comprised the southern portion.

The lines were drawn that way to protect the Democrat — Bill Sarpalius — who represented the 13th District. Democrats controlled the Legislature back then, so they sought to rig the lineup to protect their own. The tactic worked until the 1994 election, when Republican Mac Thornberry upset Sarpalius.

But the 19th District remained strongly Republican and was represented by U.S. Rep. Larry Combest of Lubbock.

C-SPAN called one day and wanted to know if I would be willing to be interviewed by the network about the 19th District. I was to talk about Combest and the district he had represented for the past decade.

Holy crap! I thought. I didn’t know much about the district, or about Combest. I was brand new here. I’d lived for the 11 previous years in the Golden Triangle region of Texas, which was represented in the House by Democrats Jack Brooks of Beaumont and Charlie Wilson of Lufkin.

I accepted the offer, then cracked the books to learn more about the 19th Congressional District and about Rep. Combest.

C-SPAN’s school bus crew met me at the newspaper office one Saturday morning and I talked for about 30 minutes or so with a camera rolling. I stuttered, stammered, paused, stopped-and-started my way through it. Hey, I’m not a TV guy.

I was frightened by the prospect of how it would look on TV. The producer assured me, “Don’t worry. You did just fine. We’ll take good care of you.”

Well, they shot their B-roll video, showing scenes of feed lots, ranch land, wind mills and such from around the sprawling district, which stretched from Amarillo all the way to Lubbock, about 120 miles south of us.

They told me when the segment would air.

I waited for it. Sure enough, they managed to make me sound a whole lot more polished than I really am.

What’s more — and this is the real beauty of this kind of skill — they preserved the essence of every comment I made. There was not a single phrase that was aired during the three-minute segment that was out of context or didn’t convey my intended message.

I would have a similar experience later, during the 2008 presidential campaign, with National Public Radio. NPR wanted to interview two journalists about the state of that campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain. I learned once again about the talent and skill it takes to edit someone’s spoken words while preserving the integrity of what one says.

Believe me, it’s a remarkable skill, indeed.

 

Take a bow, Brian Lamb

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Brian Lamb is a genius.

He might the smartest journalist in America. Why do I say that? He founded a network that has managed — through all the revolutions and incarnations of other media outlets — to keep the organization he founded free of the partisanship that has poisoned the dissemination of news.

Lamb founded C-SPAN — which is an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network.

C-SPAN tweeted out a message with some testimonials from those who appreciate the contribution it makes to informing the public about politics and policy.

Count me as a huge fan.

Has anyone ever guessed the political leanings of Lamb and the team of reporters and talking heads he employs at the network?

Lamb has made it his policy to ensure that such questions never come up. When you listen to his interviews with public officials, you never know where he leans. Left or right? Doesn’t matter. It’s hidden.

Unlike the other cable networks — whether it’s Fox on the right or MSNBC on the left — viewers get a taste of the bias that spews from the commentators/pundits/talking heads.

They have bored me for years.

Lamb invented pure-bred public affairs programming when he launched C-SPAN in the early 1980s. He persuaded Congress to let his network televise the floor speeches from senators and House members and immediately the public learned a dirty little secret about both legislative chambers: Members quite often pontificate before an empty room. We didn’t need the C-SPAN staffers to tell us; they just broadcast it, without comment.

So it has been with C-SPAN. Brian Lamb’s creation has enlightened us simply by allowing us to look inside these institutions, hear our elected representatives speak for themselves and then giving us a chance to decide whether they’re full of wisdom . . .  or something that stinks to high heaven.