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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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C-SPAN fortifies active civic engagement


Celebrating the network’s 40th anniversary

If you’ve ever taken any government course, even back in highschool, you may know that C-SPAN is quite the household name.

But in case you are not as big of a government nerd as myself, C-SPAN stands for The Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, and its goal since 1979 has been to provide direct insight into the daily proceedings of the national government “all without editing, commentary or analysis and with a balanced presentation of points of view.”

Moreover, the network is a non-profit, and “no government or taxpayer dollars support C-SPAN, as [it has] always been funded as a public service by your cable or satellite provider” according to their website.

This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the network. But what’s the big deal? This is just another news network, right? And if they aren’t going to televise something entertaining to celebrate the big four-o like Saturday Night Live did four years ago, then why care?

I mean, we are already programmed to form an opinion based on others’ opinions as it is now. Instead of watching the political events unfold on Capitol Hill or in the Supreme Court on C-SPAN, we tune into CNN or Fox News afterwards to hear what Anderson Cooper or John Stossel has to say.

“Rachel Maddow has a point, I agree with her” or “Tomi Lahren makes quite the statement, there’s no way she’s wrong on this one” are the types of arguments I am hearing more and more frequently.

I’m guilty of it too. I have to say it is definitely much easier to agree or disagree with a point someone else formulates than to form your own opinion.

So when you think about it, if you only ever tune into popular news networks to get all of your information, are you really understanding what happened, or are you just understanding someone else’s view on what happened?

I don’t mean to sound as though I’m bashing popular news outlets that do express a little bias. Sometimes, catching up on an event with a little bias is a good thing in order to understand all sides of what went down on the Hill. If you lean liberal, it’s best you at least try to understand the conservative side and vice-versa.

Not to mention popular news networks operate quite quickly. Need news fast? Just check the news app on your iPhone or skim the morning headlines to get the gist of what happened while you were asleep.

This type of news consumption is all fine to do, and in fact, I think it’s better than not paying attention to the news or politics at all.

But this is why C-SPAN is that much more important. It’s at the point where too many of us are getting far too comfortable regurgitating what we hear from a network name or settling for monotonous headline skimming rather than tuning into the actual political event and forming opinions for ourselves.

The beauty of politics and public policy is that you get to take your own stance. You get to look at the facts, listen to the politicians or judges and think about how the information makes you feel. As long as you are factually correct with what you argue, your opinion is fully yours.

C-SPAN gives you a forum to think this way. In a world filled with talking heads and speedy headline skimming, C-SPAN is that one shining star that is reliable and unbiased; a much needed change of pace from what has become the norm of political news interpretation.

I would even go so far as to say that popular media is a harbinger of both good and evil in the world of politics. They help us to see all sides of the story while simultaneously numbing us to critical political thinking if we become too absorbed in what talking heads are saying.

With this in mind, take some time to appreciate C-SPAN if you are interested in politics. Don’t stop subscribing to The New York Times, but find a healthy balance between individual analysis and pulling opinions from outside sources.

If you know Donald Trump will be giving a speech sometime soon, tune into C-SPAN to watch it happen live before you check the headlines on Fox News. If the Supreme Court is hearing a case, head over to C-SPAN to watch the case unfold before you hear what any newscaster has to say about the ruling.

In a world filled with uninformed opinions and political discrepancies all over the place, it’s about time we start analyzing the unbiased information for ourselves before we absorb the torrent of bias. We have C-SPAN to thank for the ability to do so and for the opportunity to actively participate in politics.

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