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C-SPAN bus demonstrates resources for digital citizenship

By and

The student, a finance major at Queens University, was extremely precise about the regional political issue that concerned him most.

Alvan Makoundi-Tchibinda was touring a demonstration bus organized by the C-SPAN network on a road trip throughout the United States. Toward the end of a Friday afternoon engagement on the Queens campus, a C-SPAN representative told him he could send a video message to Washington — from the bus.

He didn’t have to be asked twice. Stepping into a broadcast set, Makoundi-Tchibinda dropped his backpack and looked into the camera.

“My question would be, what’s the most important issue for my state, and why do I really strongly believe it is important? The most important issue is gerrymandering,” he said. “I think gerrymandering is something that should not be allowed…. The state should be looking at it because it is not fair, not only to the people who are electing them, but to the United States as a whole.”

Makoundi-Tchibinda was one of about five dozen students, Charlotte residents and community organizers who met with representatives of C-SPAN and Spectrum cable television – which supports C-SPAN and sponsored the visit. The Jan. 19 stop in Charlotte stop was attended by representatives from the Charlotte City Council, Mecklenburg County, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, E2D – Eliminate the Digital Divide, Digital Charlotte, and Queens.

Joel Bacon of C-SPAN, who frequently tours with the bus, explained that the network’s demonstration buses have been on the road for 25 years. To celebrate the anniversary in 2018, the C-SPAN bus is visiting state capitals and major cities in all 50 states. From the bus, they’re also interviewing elected officials in each state, polling them on important regional issues and events, and broadcasting the meetings on a morning Washington Journal program.

Citizenship, Bacon explained, is now supported by a digital component. In Charlotte, which experiences both a digital divide and economic mobility challenges, Bacon said online and broadcast resources like C-SPAN provide resources and a starting point for people with new access to broadband, hardware, and education.

“We are a non-profit organization, funded by cable, not funded by the government and having all of this content free and open to the public,” Bacon said. “One of the beautiful things about C-SPAN is that we do not spoon-feed anybody. We are an unfiltered source that anyone that wants to can interact with all of our technology, all of our video library, to make up their own minds on issues. C-SPAN is never going to tell you what to think.

“It gets young people engaged, not only with our content, but with critical thinking skills and the creation of videos. This is really important to things like the digital divide in Charlotte, because once you have a computer, then you have internet access, where do you go? And we want C-SPAN to be where students and people who are interested in how their government is operating, we want to be the place to go. This is a place that is going to challenge you and you’re going to hear probably something that you don’t agree with, and we think that’s a good thing.

“We have a video library of over 230,000 hours of videos and we go to schools like Queens University to tell students about all of the great resources that we have,” Bacon said. “It’s great for primary sources, for projects, for papers, for presentations, and it’s good for anyone whether they’re a student or an elected official or just a regular citizen.”

In Charlotte, C-SPAN is broadcast on Spectrum cable channels 74, 225, and 226. Network resources are also available online at C-SPAN.org. Panels, interviews, testimony, and other video from government officials, experts, and representatives of business, security, military, economics, politics, education, media, the arts, and other fields are all searchable and viewable on the website.

Photo: Joel Bacon of C-SPAN speaks with Queens students Isabel Perez, Josh Clasky, and Noah Goldman, and Queens associate professor of political science Margaret Commins.