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Inside Access

Fall 2011 | By Eric Nelson. Photo by Mark Simons.

Since 1977, C-SPAN has worked to open the doors of government to the world, giving viewers of the cable television network an inside look at American political processes. Its coverage is revealing, fascinating, historic, and, in the minds of many, essential to a properly functioning democracy.

Network founder Brian Lamb, who earned a degree in communication at Purdue in 1963, has literally changed the way we view government, according to Howard Sypher, professor of communication and head of Purdue's newly named Brian Lamb School of Communication.

On the Record

In 1987, Brian Lamb designated Purdue's School of Liberal Arts as the original home of the C-SPAN Archives, which records, indexes, and archives all C-SPAN programming for historical, educational, and research uses.

In 1998, C-SPAN assumed responsibility for the archival operations and moved the facilities to the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The collection now totals more than 170,000 hours. All programs are digital and can viewed for free at www.c-span.org/videolibrary.

The staff of the C-SPAN Archives records all three C-SPAN networks seven days a week, 24 hours a day, making them immediately accessible to the public. Programs are extensively indexed, making the database of C-SPAN programming an unparalleled chronological resource.

Robert X. Browning, associate professor of communication and political science, is director of the C-SPAN Archives.

"Brian Lamb has pushed to keep the doors open and proceedings preserved so the American people can see how Congress does our nation's business," Sypher says. "Many view C-SPAN as a public service largely benefiting the academic and policy communities, but its impact is much broader."

In September, Lamb was on campus for the school's naming celebration. The event featured a public forum in which Lamb interviewed Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and opened the C-SPAN 2012 campaign bus to passers-by during its stop on the West Lafayette campus.

The celebration, particularly the public forum with Daniels, was a preview of the growing educational, research, and partnership opportunities brought to Purdue students and faculty by the school's namesake.

"We see the Brian Lamb School of Communication and our partnership with C-SPAN as a way to build a bridge to the media industry that benefits the college and the University as a whole," Sypher says. "Purdue students will benefit from enhanced internships, collaborative research opportunities with faculty and industry professionals, and other innovative programs. The potential is limited only by our imaginations."

Lamb is known for his interest in and dedication to students. Those in Ambassador Carolyn Curiel's Special Topics in Communication course have enjoyed inside access to Lamb and C-SPAN since fall 2010, meeting each semester at the C-SPAN Archives in Purdue Research Park to interview national and international newsmakers via a video link. Curiel, a clinical assistant professor in the Lamb School, is a former White House speechwriter and served as ambassador to Belize from 1997 to 2001.

Sara and Chellie Zou

Double Duty

Purdue's "Silver Twins," Sara and Chellie Zou, are reaping the benefits of the University's partnership with C-SPAN and Brian Lamb.

The identical twins, who are seniors in the College of Liberal Arts, completed internships this summer with C-SPAN in Washington, D.C, and were recently featured in a network promotion titled "Good Things Come in Twos." Even as interns, they interacted with Lamb regularly.

"He is extremely humble and very observant," says Sara. "He took great interest in all 20 of the summer interns. He knew all of our names, where we go to school, and what we worked on. I will always be grateful for his dedication to learning and to helping others."

Sara, a political science major with minors in Chinese and communication, worked in the Programming Operations–Promotions department, where she wrote and edited scripts and helped create promo spots for programming on each of the three C-SPAN networks.

Chellie, a communication major with minors in Chinese and psychology, worked in the Digital Services department, where she wrote "news boxes" for C-SPAN's main website and provided editorial support for its c-span.org and booknotes.org sites.

"My experience at C-SPAN was amazing," Chellie says. "The most important lesson I learned was that it's not about the job, it's about the people. Everyone was so willing to help and offer advice. The work environment was very encouraging and positive, even in the fast-paced world of media and politics.

"Brian Lamb could never be found in his office. He was always walking through the halls chatting and laughing with people. He truly takes an interest in those around him."

"Students invariably tell me they love classes that engage Brian Lamb and C-SPAN," Curiel says. "While there is only one Brian Lamb, everyone can access the C-SPAN Archives. It provides an unfettered view of government and those who influence it."

A special class introduced in May brought a group of students face to face with Lamb in Washington, D.C. "Most mornings, students were out the door at 7 a.m., and Brian was there to meet them on their arrival at C-SPAN headquarters," Curiel says. "He taught, he observed, he engaged students every moment he could. They felt privileged to get such individual attention and insights into the workings of the network and the people it covers."

Lamb's accessible style was also on display during his September interview of Daniels, whose comfort and familiarity with his questioner prompted a lively and often witty discussion about the governor's new book, Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans, released just a week earlier.

It also set the tone for a series of probing questions from students and others in the audience about issues at the forefront of the 2012 presidential election, including the budget deficit, health care reform, job creation, and education.

"Brian Lamb is known for his integrity and honesty and as a relentless advocate for openness in government," Sypher says. "People across a variety of disciplines and political persuasions have an appreciation and respect for who he is and what he has accomplished, and that comes across in all his interactions."

Lamb, a Lafayette native, has long been involved with Purdue and the College of Liberal Arts. In addition to his undergraduate degree, he received an honorary doctorate from the University in 1986. He founded C-SPAN –– Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network –– in 1977. The network's initial telecasts of the U.S. House of Representatives commenced in 1979, and today there are three C-SPAN networks offering around-the-clock coverage of the political process.

"We are always thrilled to have Brian Lamb on campus because of his commitment to mentoring and encouraging Purdue students," says Irwin Weiser, the Justin S. Morrill Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Now, with the Brian Lamb School of Communication, his legacy has a home on Purdue's campus, facilitating inside access for each new generation of students.

To view Brian Lamb's interview of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, visit the C-SPAN Video Library at www.c-spanvideo.org/program/301901-1.

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