A recent visit by the C-SPAN multimedia van — actually a full-sized bus —  provided a unique, out-of-classroom learning opportunity in public affairs and broadcasting for Orange County High School students.

Confusion crossed a young face as C-SPAN marketing representative Sara Zou questioned her tour group.

“Who knows what the P in C-SPAN stands for?" she asked.

“Politics?” comes a tentative response.

Zou is quick to correct the misconception.

C-SPAN is the acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, she explains, adding that her employer is a non-partisan operation.  That means, she says, that the network is not affiliated with any political party, and does not favor either side of the political debate.

Also, she says, the network differs from other news networks by broadcasting long-form content rather than sound bites.  If a president’s speech runs to 47 minutes and 30 seconds, the network will broadcast the entire length, without cutting away to a commercial or an analyst to interpret what has been said.

Heads, all assigned to Beth Herndon’s AP Government class, nod.

The visit of the van to the Orange County venue was initiated by the network, Principal Doug Duncan explained.  Two of the school’s faculty members, government teacher Herndon and JROTC instructor Major Kent Daniels, are enrolled as members in the network’s C-SPAN Classroom program for use in their classes.  When the multi-media vehicle’s tour was planned to be in the area, Duncan said, the public affairs network offered to come by for an educational visit. 

“When you have teachers who go above and beyond,” he said, “good things come along that can be taken advantage of.”

In addition to the its educational function, the van, constantly on the move around the country, also serves as a production source by allowing live interview broadcasts from inside it’s well-appointed mobile studio. 

Following Zou’s presentation, the students took advantage of numerous on-board computer stations to explore the network’s research resources.  C-SPAN’s archived footage goes back to 1987, Zou said.

After completing the tour, AP government student Gena Shifflett gave the experience a positive review.

“I thought it was really interesting that technology has advanced this far,” she said,”to be able to be brought to us.”

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