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SOUTH BEACH : MISSION VIEJO

'The Boring Channel's' Bus Reroutes Students' Attention

January 13, 1998|SUSAN DEEMER

Students at Fred Newhart Middle School, once content to surf past most public affairs programming for music videos, said Monday that a visit from a 45-foot yellow C-SPAN School Bus piqued their interest enough to make them tune in.

"I always thought it was like the boring channel, but it's pretty interesting how they do all the interviews on the bus," said Michael Ousbahl, 14.

The $800,000 bus is fitted with more than a dozen television monitors, robotic cameras and computers inside a small scale control room and studio.

Cox Communications is one of several cable affiliates that fund the national community outreach program. The bus brings the political process to life for educators, students and viewers.

It will make two stops in Orange County this week. It will be at Los Alamitos High School today, part of its nine-month journey, mirroring one taken by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 that eventually led to his book, "Democracy in America."

This is one of two C-SPAN buses. The other was launched in 1996 and covers 55 cities, 17 states on the East Coast, retracing de Tocqueville's steps. Since July, 1997, about 13,000 teachers, 67,000 students, 1,500 state and local officials and 153 federal officials including President Clinton have stepped on board one of the buses.

"At first [students] think C-SPAN is a channel you fly through on your way to everything else," said Donald Hirsch, C-SPAN administration manager. "But when you start talking about what C-SPAN is and how it affects them they get interested."

Hirsch said presentations introduce young people to the cable program and can be used as an educational tool by teachers in the classroom.

But will they become C-SPAN junkies?

"I will probably watch it more than I have because I found out how it was done. Before, I had no idea what was on it," said Melissa Graham, 13.

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