C-SPAN bus rides into town

CHIP ELLIS | Gazette photos
Trace Carpenter, 10, of Charleston experiments on some of the C-SPAN laptops aboard the bus which came to town Monday. Several groups of summer campers toured the bus, which travels the country promoting C-SPAN’s educational and political resources.
Several YMCA summer campers got to tour the C-SPAN bus Monday at Hillcrest Drive in Charleston.
CHIP ELLIS | Gazette
A group of summer campers at the YMCA tours the C-SPAN bus Monday.

The C-SPAN Bus, now in its 21st year on the road, stopped in Charleston on Monday, visiting the YMCA on Hillcrest Drive and a meeting of the Rotary Club of Charleston at the Charleston Civic Center.

The bus travels to cities, schools, universities, libraries and bookstores across the country, promoting the political and educational value C-SPAN programs offer to high school students, college students, teachers and everyone else interested in politics and history.

Pete Sugatt, who drives the bus for one week every month, said the bus is on the road 10 months out of every year.

“This week, we began in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then went to Gettysburg College before we came here to the YMCA and Civic Center. Tomorrow, we will head to Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, then to Louisville.

“I am retired teacher who taught history and social studies to students in Baltimore,” she said. “Now, I love to drive.”

The C-SPAN bus spends a couple of months on the West Coast for a couple months each year, Sugatt said.

“On one of my recent trips, we drove 1,600 miles up from Oklahoma City, where it was 102 degrees, to Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior, where there was ice in the water.

“The bus cost $1 million, including all of its electronic devices and cameras,” Sugatt said.

On Monday, several students at the YMCA toured the bus and learned about C-SPAN’s coverage of public affairs and about its social networking, which includes: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Foursquare, Tout and XM Radio.

C-SPAN also offers a major source of information about public affairs on its newly redesigned website, www.C-SPAN.org. The site has links to live programming, past programs and archives, as well as information about future programs.

The site also has more than 200,000 hours of political and governmental footage dating back to 1987.

Vanessa Torres, a marketing director for C-SPAN, said, “C-SPAN brings information to the community. Our stations are funded by cable networks, not by the government. We are non-partisan. People can get much more information from us than from regular TV networks.”

C-SPAN reporters, Torres said, have done profiles of “some high-profile people” on the bus.

“We also did a Big 12 Tour last year, meeting with the best students studying political science and journalism at those universities, including West Virginia University.”

Bob Brunner, who visited the bus after attending a meeting of the Rotary Club of Charleston, said he and the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., played a major role in creating C-SPAN’s coverage of Congress.

Brunner, who headed the Radio-Television News Directors Association, said, “It was a pipe dream to have cameras inside the Senate.

“Byrd was so open to it that he came to a luncheon with our executive board. Byrd made it happen.”

Brunner spent more than 20 years, from 1968 to 1990, working as a reporter, news director and news anchor at WSAZ-TV in Charleston. In 1990, he began working as communications director for Gov. Gaston Caperton. Brunner later returned to working as a television news reporter in Beckley and outside West Virginia.

Today, C-SPAN broadcasts all sessions at the House of Representatives, while C-SPAN2 broadcasts Senate sessions and C-SPAN3 broadcasts committee meetings, briefings and speeches.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.

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