Friday, January 9, 2004

Students tour network's mobile TV studio

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Fairfield Senior High students huddle from the cold and snow Thursday as they board the C-Span 2004 Vote Tour bus.
(Michael Snyder photo)
FAIRFIELD - David Howard spent part of his behavioral studies class Thursday on a bus envisioning himself a U.S. senator.

But it wasn't your ordinary yellow school bus that was parked in front of Fairfield Senior High School.

The 45-foot bus was one of two that C-SPAN - Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network - brings to communities throughout the country.

"My goal is to be a senator," Howard said. "I want to be on C-SPAN."

C-SPAN provides live coverage of the U.S. House and Senate. The network's $43 million budget is gleaned through viewers' cable bills. About a nickel from each bill goes to C-SPAN, said Heath Neiderer, who spoke with Fairfield students.

Junior James Collins, who never heard of C-SPAN before this week, found it interesting.

"I might put it on if they're (House or Senate) talking about terrorism,'' Collins said.

The buses - each valued at nearly $1.5 million - crisscross the country visiting schools and other public places. Visits are arranged through local cable companies. Before coming to Fairfield, the bus spent two hours at Cincinnati Public Schools' Hughes Center High School.

In groups of about a dozen each, students from social studies classes climbed aboard C-SPAN's mobile television studio, where they learned about C-SPAN.

Teacher Ann Swigart said she was glad her students were able to visit the bus and see the cameras, audio boards and soundproof room.

"We're studying institutions within society. This relates to government as a social institution," Swigart said.

Not everyone was impressed, however.

"It was all right. (But) I'm not fond of government," said senior Tiffany Bowens. "It didn't change my opinion."

Besides exposing students to the van, Neiderer said one of the 25-year-old network's goals is to help students to critically watch news coverage. Instead of using sound bites or glimpses from House or Senate hearings, C)SPAN broadcasts the hearings live.

The Washington, D.C.-based buses are on the road 11 months and travel 60,000 miles annually.


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