Tag Archives: C-SPAN

Recalling a long, lost journalism memory

I discovered something on the Internet I didn’t know even existed. To be candid, it blew me away to find it. So much so that I want to share it here.


The quality of the video isn’t great, but it’s watchable if you’re interested.

C-SPAN is the network that appeals mainly to political junkies. I am one of them. The call letters stand for “Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network.” Need I say more?

I enjoy the network and its utterly unbiased presentation of the discussion of the issues of the day. Its founder, Brian Lamb, is legendary in his insistence that his on-air reporters steer clear of any bias.

In 1996, I was new to the Texas Panhandle. I had started a job a year earlier as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. C-SPAN was conducting a nationwide tour of every congressional district in the United States.

The network called me and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed for a discussion of the 19th Congressional District and its representative, Lubbock Republican Larry Combest.

“Sure,” I said. Here’s the deal, though: I had to study up on the 19th  District, learn enough about it to talk intelligently about it for broadcast on the air.

C-SPAN’s series featured a “school bus” that came to each congressional district. It contained a traveling camera crew. A reporter asked me questions; a cameraman video recorded it. The interview lasted about 30 minutes at the AGN offices in downtown Amarillo. The finished product was cut down to about three minutes on the air.

It was a fascinating “teachable moment” for this newcomer to the Texas Panhandle. It presented me with one of the more incredible experiences of my journalism career. I enjoyed doing it immensely.

In 1996, Amarillo was divided into two congressional districts. Combest represented the19th, which included Randall County. The northern portion of Amarillo was represented by the 13th District and its then-freshman congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry.

I honestly cannot remember who C-SPAN recruited to talk on the air about the 13th District; hey, it was a long time ago.

This is just a nugget that I wanted to share with you, given the many miles the world has traveled over the past two-plus decades since this segment aired in the delivery of news and commentary to the public.

Media become pols’ chosen villain

The president of the United States is taking dead aim at the national political media.

He calls them “dishonest.” Donald Trump even has called reporters “among the most dishonest people on Earth.”

Ouch and double-ouch!

Of course, I don’t believe that.

But I did scrounge up an earlier item I posted on this blog about one political medium that I found implicitly fair, honest and accurate.

It’s the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network. I had an experience with C-SPAN that I want to re-share again today.


I posted this item nearly a year ago. It is intended to speak the nuanced skill associated with editing video recording and making the interviewee sound a whole lot smarter than he is. In my case, that’s what C-SPAN did to near perfection.

National Public Radio did the same thing — again to yours truly — during the 2008 presidential campaign. NPR wanted to talk to two newspaper editors from disparate regions of the country. They got in touch with me at the Amarillo Globe-News, which serves a solidly Republican region; NPR also talked to the editor of the Dayton Daily News, where the Barack Obama-John McCain was much more competitive.

Again, NPR worked its magic. I stammered my way through a 30-minute conversation with the radio host and my colleague in Dayton. But you didn’t hear all that clumsiness when NPR aired on its “Weekend Edition” broadcast. Here is what I wrote about that experience:


I want to stand up for my colleagues in the media.

They aren’t “dishonest.” Those who work for actual news organizations — not the purveyors of fake news — do so in good conscience and with the singular mission to report the truth.


C-SPAN worked miracles with this spot


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


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.




Here's how you start a firestorm

Mention the n-word in the context of someone from a political party using against the president of the United States and you’re bound to start major-league hissy fit.

I did that today by posting something that was broadcast on C-SPAN.

Here it is:


An idiot from San Diego, Calif., called in on the “Republican line,” and identified himself as a Republican. He then said “Republicans hate that (n-word) Obama.” Steve Scully, the C-SPAN host, cut the caller off immediately in a remarkable display of dispassion.

My tweet asked whether the moron spoke for “other Republicans.”

Then the fire started blazing on my Facebook news feed, where my tweet was posted automatically.

I have many conservative friends, and a few of them are quite active on Facebook. They took a lot of time suggesting that I labeled “all Republicans” as racists. I didn’t do that.

I asked what I believe is a straightforward, fair and legitimate question: Did the C-SPAN caller represent “other Republicans?”

This is what happens when we talk about race in America. We’re supposed to be living in what are calling a post-racial period. I don’t believe that’s the case. The election of Barack Obama as president has shown that racial politics is alive and well.

He’s made race an issue on occasion. When the topic comes up, his foes declare he’s a racist. When the president’s foes argue their point, the president’s allies declare that they are the racists.

And when people such as yours truly ask a simple question about a moronic caller who’s use of the n-word was broadcast on a national cable TV news program, then we see that race remains at or near the top of many Americans’ conscience.

I believe I’ll refrain from commenting any further on racial politics for the time being.

I’m a bit worn out from the battering I took today.