CSPAN Digital Bus visits VCU Commons

Catherine Leth
Contributing Writer

The C-Span Digital Bus visited the VCU Commons plaza on Friday morning, giving students an opportunity to climb aboard and interact with the non-profit cable network via high-definition TVs, HP Touchsmart kiosks and laptops.

The 45-foot Provost coach, custom-built earlier this year, features SMARTboard technology for various types of presentations, environmentally friendly LED light bulbs, bamboo furnishings, and meets rigid Environmental Protection Agency standards. Satellites installed on the roof keep the bus connected at its various stops.

Interested students were able to participate in C-Span polls, take political quizzes, and record their opinions on webcams and microphones.

“I’ve seen C-Span a couple of times, but now that I’ve seen the bus I want to know more. It’s awesome, it makes students more aware of politics. It’s a big bus parked on your campus- you can’t help but stop. It’s amazing, they’ve got everything in there,” said Torrey Terry, a junior majoring in business.

The program is funded through cable subscriber fees. Local television providers that operate near each of the bus stops coordinate with C-Span administrators to make the events possible. The network teamed up with Comcast in Richmond and shortly after the function was organized by VCU’s Society of Professional Journalists.

“I thought it was really important to have an event like this because it’s a great way to start off the year. We had to make sure they got here, they had a space, and that the school was okay with it- all in about 5 days,” said senior and SPJ president Katherine Coates. “Every single [SPJ] member helped out so much and they’ve only been with the organization for about a week. Everyone came together really quickly with a lot of enthusiasm.” she said.

While the bus was on campus, SPJ members were featured on Washington Journal, a C-Span program that airs daily without commercial interruption. Generally, members of each political party from across the nation call in and question an available speaker or discuss the day’s topic. The student members were able to interview Dylan Loewe, author of Permanently Blue, via Skype from within the bus.

“I was nervous, it was very exciting. You have to stand straight and look into the camera. I just tried to listen and respond and not make a fool of myself- my mom’s going to see this!” said SPJ member and junior Jalisa House.

Each of the questions posed by the six students prompted an interesting response from Loewe. “I was very impressed with the great questions from the SPJ students. Gave me hope for the future of journalism,” he said in a Twitter interview.

The Digital Bus is on the road 11 months out of the year, stopping at various institutions, presenting political information to teachers and students of all ages. One of their marketing representatives, Jennifer Curran, works full time on the Digital Bus team.

“We have multiple crews, we sort of tag in and tag out,” said Curran. “I’ll be with the bus for a week and then fly out from where ever we are, then another crew flies in and keeps going.”

The bus was open to students from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and then departed for their next stop in New York City.

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