For 24 years, a C-SPAN bus has been parking itself by college unions and at middle and high schools across the country as part of an education outreach campaign that pitches the resources of C-SPAN to students and educators across the country. In its more than two decades of operation, the mobile outreach unit has gone through a few reincarnations, as you can imagine. The most recent revamp happened in time for the start of its 2017 college tour, now underway.
The bus makeover features an interior filled with new technology goods: six Samsung tablets preloaded with C-SPAN educational resources, an app created specifically for the bus and a mobile production studio complete with HD cameras and other equipment necessary to put on a show inside the bus, if necessary.
One of the main purposes of the production gear is to allow bus visitors to film themselves responding to a prompt C-SPAN is asking throughout this tour, which this year includes 17 historically black colleges and universities, as well as secondary schools. Answers to the question, “What issue would you like Congress or the administration to address in the first 100 days?” will be featured on C-SPAN’s social media channels under the hashtag #cspanvoices as well as in brief segments on the network that will appear in between C-SPAN programming.
For Heath Neiderer, C-SPAN’s marketing manager, the bus visitors always leave him impressed. “They’re engaged, they’re involved, they ask pertinent questions to what C-SPAN provides,” Neiderer says. He adds that students are usually aware of C-SPAN, making his job more about letting students know about everything they can get out of the network, rather than merely introducing its existence.
But there is definitely one bit of information about C-SPAN, or rather, a common misconception, that Neiderer and his team always make sure to clarify: C-SPAN is not owned or funded by the government. “It’s because of the cable industry that we’re able to show 40 hours of the Senate in its entirety, without commercials,” he tells students. “And that’s our commitment to giving people access to the American political process.”
The bus is currently in week one of a three-week tour whose stops include Cheyney University, Lincoln University, Morgan State University, Coppin University, Bowie State University, Howard University, Virginia Union University, Virginia State University, NC Central University, Winston-Salem State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Clarke Atlanta University, Jackson State University and Grambling State University.