Political cable network C-SPAN stopped outside Rackham Graduate School as part of its educational bus tour Monday. The high-tech bus acted as a mobile classroom and has been on tour since 1993 to engage with voters and elected officials.
C-SPAN marketing representative Jenae Green said the bus is stopping in various cities in Michigan and several other Midwest states for its battleground states tour in preparation for the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
“Michigan plays a huge role in the election, it always does,” Green said. “We wanted to make sure that we come by the University of Michigan to engage with students, professors and just talk about politics, and in an unbiased way — an unfiltered way of letting you see what’s happening, and the candidates that are running what’s going on in government. And then just finding out more ways to stay informed.”
Green said what separates C-SPAN from most other news outlets is its unbiased and nonpartisan reporting on government affairs, since it was created by the cable industry as a public service. C-SPAN receives no funding from the government.
“We can truly make sure that we keep our coverage unbiased, nonpartisan, because we don’t have to lean one way or the other,” Green said. “In the way that we show news, we don’t ever have a panel discussing what’s going on behind them … so the viewers at home can make it their own informed decision.”
Doug Hemmig, a C-SPAN community relations representative who’s traveling with the bus, said the bus acts as both a classroom and a studio with 11 large-screen tablets, a smart board for classroom teaching, a photo station and a TV production studio for programming.
At the University in particular, C-SPAN wanted to engage with students and first-time voters to help them learn more about the government, elections and U.S. history, Hemming said.
“In the classroom, we bring 12 to 15 students on for a 15-minute presentation talking about our video library, which has over 250,000 hours of content, adding to it every day,” Hemming said. “So, they walk away with a new resource they can use inside and outside the classroom, not only as a first-time voter, but to learn about government, American history and civics.”
Green added that, with its onboard studio, C-SPAN can film live tapings and interviews to be aired in its programming.
“We are doing 30-second interviews asking the question: ‘What’s an issue that you want the candidates to address in 2020?’” she said. “So, what’s important to you. We air these on C-SPAN almost like commercials highlighting the University of Michigan students and staff here and the state of Michigan as a whole.”
Robert Krasny, a University professor of mathematics and a C-SPAN viewer, was excited to interact with the bus after hearing it was on campus. He agreed with Green, saying C-SPAN is an important public service.
“They say it right on the bus, it’s your unfiltered view of the government,” Krasny said. “The great thing about C-SPAN is that they’re balanced. They have call-in programs, for example. People can call in and give their opinion about the events that are going on. One phone number is for Democrats, one phone number is for Republicans, and the third phone number is for independents and they really get very balanced, round point of view of the whole population.”
LSA senior Pamela Sobze had heard of C-SPAN, but wanted to interact with the bus to learn more about them. Sobze said C-SPAN could help college students engage more with politics and the government through interactive events like its bus tour.
“Young people, a lot of them do follow politics, but a lot of them don’t,” she said. “It’s hard to balance it with school, so I think this is a good way to get people exposed to it. And if there are things they don’t know, like I didn’t know a lot of the minor details, it’s fun to learn about why certain events are so important and why things get so much coverage.”