Earlier this week, C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb sent a letter to the Democratic leadership asking them to "open all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings, to electronic media coverage." No word from the Democrats on whether they'll accept Lamb's offer--stranger things have happened, I suppose.
More important, the news reminded me of this classic David Brooks cover story from 1999. Sample:
Indeed, when you step back far enough you begin to appreciate that C-SPAN is so far out of tune with the times that it has become an intellectual counterculture. Especially on the weekends, the people who fill its screens seem quaintly and bravely out of step: the historian who has devoted her career to researching Pickett's Charge, the auctioneer who specializes in rare 18th-century books, the biographer who has spent years describing John Adams.
C-SPAN is factual in a world grown theoretical. It is slow in a world growing more hyper. It is word-oriented in an era that is visually sophisticated. With its open phone lines, it is genuinely populist in a culture that preaches populism more than it practices it. And occupying its unique niche -- C-SPAN is funded by the cable industry to cover Congress and public events -- it has managed to perform feats of civic education that are unmatched by better-funded institutions, such as the History Channel, PBS, the Smithsonian, or the multi-billion-dollar foundations.
The whole piece is a treat. We've made it available to non-subscribers, but now is as good a time as any to point out that the entire archive becomes available when you subscribe.