MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- MTSU students and community leaders spent part of their day surrounded by communication wizardry aboard the C-SPAN bus.
A 45-foot conveyance packed with interactive technology, the bus put visitors only a touch screen away from the more than 247,000 hours of content in the network's video library.
The Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, which is funded by the cable industry, has covered American government and culture since 1979. It is perhaps best known for its live gavel-to-gavel coverage of Congress. The video library dates back to 1987.
Janae Green, a marketing representative, and Robin Newton, a media relations specialist, served as tour guides through the bus, which is equipped with cameras, lights and master control equipment suitable for live broadcasting. The MTSU stop was part of the bus' "Southern swing" that takes it next to Knoxville.
Visitors were invited to be videoed by C-SPAN staff for short messages explaining "what it means to be an American" in conjunction with the network's video documentary competition. Students in grades six through 12 are competing for a $5,000 grand prize, 150 smaller prizes and the honor of having their videos aired on C-SPAN.
"They're arranging these videos from start to finish whether it's scheduling the interviews, doing the editing, whatever the case might be," Green said.
Among the visitors who could not resist sharing their views were Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron and MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes.
"I guess that was instilled in me back when I was a Boy Scout and working my way through the ranks to become an Eagle Scout," Ketron said. "It taught me the values through the scouting program about God and country."
Ketron went on to extol the virtues of the right to vote and freedom of speech, "things that this country enjoys compared to other countries around the globe. Those freedoms I don't take lightly."
Said Byrnes: "I think being an American means embracing the ideas set forth by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- and working toward a government that helps fulfill those ideas."
John Cantor, a freshman from Williamsport, Maryland, said he found the bus "fascinating" and expressed interest in an internship with the network.
"It's very eye-opening to show you all that C-SPAN encompasses," the music business major said. "I believe a lot of people who aren't accustomed to what C-SPAN does think of it as this general program that just covers the government, but it covers so much more."
During their visit, Green and Newton spoke to two MTSU media classes about how budding reporters can use C-SPAN to find attributable, authentic source material for class reports and projects.