Regular readers are likely to be aware of the fact that we like to take shots at the state of American media as often as possible. It is nearly impossible in a world of ratings-driven primetime partisan rants to get anything like real news on the television. The internet can be as bad, if not worse with comments sections of most any news story devolving into shouting matches fuelled by the anonymity of doltish screen names and optimistic avatars. Add in the barely-afloat newspaper industry with its hyper-concentration in ownership, and therefore viewpoints, and people can be forgiven for wondering if any given story across the various media is news or merely just thinly-veiled propaganda.
That is the main reason we champion C-SPAN as often as possible. Sure, politics features heavily on C-SPAN; indeed almost all of C-SPAN's programming is political by nature to some extent. However it is politics unfiltered and straight from the horse's mouths. Viewers don't get the so-often out of context soundbite, they get the whole speech. They don't hear the one zinger thrown across the aisle, they hear the whole debate. They get to see committee hearings, campaign stops and meetings without an editing suite acting as an intermediary. On top of all of the other benefits, the C-SPAN family additionally offers some excellent coverage of foreign politics. It is truly the best way for interested parties to get to know the issues and make their own decisions on where they stand.
The other huge benefit of C-SPAN is the window it opens on the American as a species in all of its various states. This is made possible by the Washington Journal program, among others. The set up of the Journal is interesting. Typically someone from the federal government, at times an elected official, at others individuals from various agencies, visit the studio, chat a bit about what projects they are working on, and take calls from the viewing audience. At other times on the channel, folks have the opportunity to call in and give their two cents on the topic du jour. It is fairly clear that the screening on these callers is minimal at best, leading for some priceless moments when government officials try to deflect questions on conspiracy theories.
But in addition to the odd blooper, viewers gain insights into the mind of the nation as people from every political, geographic, ethnic, racial, religious and socioeconomic background call in and have their say. Typically the conversation remains respectful; often interesting questions and comments provoke equally interesting answers. Indeed, it is often the case that both questions and answers are far more insightful that what would be on offering in a more scripted situation. In other words, it is our representative democracy in action, even if in diluted form. And that is a benefit to every American. For more on C-SPAN programming and access to the channel's extensive video library, visit here.