C-SPAN bus stops by for a visit at Viera High School


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Jeff Draves, an AP Capstone and Social Studies teacher at Viera High School, arranged a Nov. 28 visit by C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network), a not-for-profit company whose mission is to make government more transparent to Americans. Janae Green, left, takes Viera students behind the scenes aboard the C-SPAN tour bus.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

C-SPAN’s tour bus recently visited Viera High School on its annual cross-country journey, giving students a first-hand perspective about how the network operates.

C-SPAN, or Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, is a not-for-profit company whose mission is to make government more transparent to Americans.

On Nov. 28, students from select Viera classes had the opportunity to get behind the scenes on the C-SPAN bus and gain an understanding of how it differs from other news networks.

“We do not show you the highlights, we show everything so we’re a little different, not better or worse,” said C-SPAN representative Janae Green. “If there’s a filibuster on the floor and someone wants to talk for hours and hours, let’s say it’s 20 hours, how much of that do you think we will cover on C-SPAN?”

“That’s right, all of it,” Green said. “So, if you want to watch 20 hours of television, we will be showing it.”

During a question and answer period, one student asked Green about the location of C-SPAN cameras.

“In the Senate chamber, there is one camera,” said Green, “and that is controlled by the majority party. That is not our camera.”

The majority party can shut off the camera at any time, which sometimes aggravates C-SPAN viewers.  Outside the Senate chamber, in the hallways, C-SPAN has several cameras pointing at strategic angles. A wide-angle camera is used to show as much as possible.

“That is so we are not interpreting or narrating,” Green said.

Future journalists or other students who are interested in making their own video documentaries can enter the annual StudentCam competition. The winning videos are aired on C-SPAN, and the first-place prize is $5,000.

This year’s question is: What does it mean to be an American?

Students are encouraged to use a little C-SPAN footage and reach out to elected officials while creating their documentaries.

“We had a middle schooler from New Jersey who did a Skype interview with a senator,” Green said.

Jeff Draves, an AP Capstone and Social Studies teacher at Viera arranged the C-SPAN visit.

“I just think when the opportunity arose it was one of those things we needed to do,” Draves said.

When they found out about C-SPAN coming to the high school, Draves’ students were skeptical and asked him if the network is truly not biased.

“With this generation, they’re very skeptical about information they receive. They’re growing up in what I call the disinformation age where they have to sift,” Draves said. “Which is kind of mature as far as I’m concerned.”

Draves said his students are starting to get involved more politically.

“This generation kind of reminds me a little bit of the ’60s, Draves said. “They are starting to get involved. They’re no longer just observing, so this type of thing, especially with primary sources, is always good.”

All transcripts from C-SPAN can be downloaded for free and used as a primary source.    

Interested middle and high school students in the U.S. are eligible to enter the studentcam competition. To learn more, go to studentcam.org/rules.htm.