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The C-SPAN Bus Visits Pensacola Schools

Bob Barrett

Students from three Pensacola area schools got a tour of an oversized, technology filled motor coach last Thursday at the C-SPAN bus made a stop in town. The bus is touring the country now, visiting state capitols, book fairs and schools along the way. "The tour started in Delaware [in September] and we finish in November of 2018" said Jenae Green, one of the C-SPAN representatives who are giving tours to students on the bus. "We are going to all 50 state including Alaska and Hawaii, which everyone always gets real excited about. And we are traveling around the country [talking] about C-SPAN, to meet with students and people in the community and promote our non-partisan resources."

Credit Bob Barrett / WUWF News
Doug Hemmig talks to students in the back studio portion of the C-SPAN bus.

Yes they take the bus to Hawaii! Green says that's one of the questions they get asked the most about the tour. "We basically put it on a barge and we ship it out to Hawaii. [The trip takes] a few days. And then once we have it there we do events all around Hawaii." Green says they are able to produce live programs from the bus. "The back of the bus can be turned into a mobile production studio, so we'll [have them there in Hawaii and] do some live programming with our Washington Journal morning show."

C-SPAN is operated by a non-profit company called the National Cable Satellite Corporation, and is funded by cable and satellite companies and other providers through subscriber fees. During the buses cross country tour, they work with cable companies to determine which cities and schools would make good places to stop and visit. The bus stop in Pensacola was in collaboration with Cox Communications. Green says it was the local Cox office that helped choose which schools the bus visited while it was in the area. "We were at [Reinhardt] Holm Elementary School this morning. We were at [J. H.] Workman Middle [School] a few hours ago, and now we're here at Ferry Pass Middle School." 

During the busses visit to Ferry Pass Middle, students were let on the bus about a dozen at a time and given a presentation of what C-SPAN is and the technology that is packed on the vehicle. Doug Hemmig, another Marketing and Community Relations Representative for C-SPAN greeted students by asking them about their school and what made it special. They responded by talking about the teachers, the building, even the food in the cafeteria. He then talked to them about the bus and C-SPAN. "Middle school students are great. A lot of times they're really excited about the technology [and] the bells and whistles in the bus, the cameras, the lighting all the tablets. So that's the main thing for middle school students. We use that as an opportunity to get they engaged about all the educational content we have on our network."

Credit Bob Barrett / WUWF News
Jenae Green engages students on the C-SPAN bus

Both Doug Hemmig and Jenae Green engage the students on the tour both in that back of the bus studio, and the front of the bus where over a dozen tablets are set up along the walls of the bus for students to get more information about government and C-SPAN. Hemmig, who has been with C-SPAN for 17 years, says this bus is a major upgrade from previous models. "This [bus] is much more of an open concept, more tablets, more room for the kids to explore."

While chatting with students, Hemmig asked where they got their news. Some of the answers were the newspaper, CNN and Fox. None of the students during this tour mentioned C-SPAN when they were asked where they get their news. Jenae Green says part of what they do is teach students how to use C-SPAN. "We always ask 'Have you heard of C-SPAN before?' and we get a couple of hands that raise. Then I [ask] them 'Have you scrolled through the television and seen Congress on TV?'. " She explains to the students that says yes that there was a great chance that was C-SPAN. 

Another topic students are finding out about in the tour is a competition called Student Cam for students in grades six through 12. Green says this is a "video documentary competition for students. It allows them to get their voice out for 5 to 7 minutes. They'll use some of C-SPAN's content from our video library [and] put that in their documentary for the competition. The topic this year is The Constitution and You." This is an annual competition, and students can enter every years as long as they are in grades six  through 12. 

You can learn more about this competition for students at StudentCam.com.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.