As the sun beat down on the large C-SPAN bus in Juneau on Monday afternoon, C-SPAN Marketing Manager Heath Neiderer greeted a crowd with words that don’t often get said about Southeast Alaska.
“We love your weather,” Neiderer said, as Juneau residents in the crowd chuckled.
Neiderer is part of a crew from C-SPAN that is taking the 45-foot educational bus to all 50 U.S. state capitals this year. Juneau is the 38th stop, and the C-SPAN crew is trying to make the most of its visit to Alaska. They’re making stops in Haines, Anchorage and Fairbanks after this.
They’re talking with prominent politicians, writers and others throughout the state, and will air their footage on July 21 and 22. Juneau is one of the tougher state capitals to access, as C-SPAN had to ship the bus up on a boat from Bellingham, Washington this past weekend, according to a release from C-SPAN.
During the crew’s first day in Juneau, the bus traveled from the Capitol to GCI’s Mendenhall Valley store on Airport Boulevard to the University of Alaska Southeast. The event at GCI’s store was the main stop of the day, which included a short speech from Mayor Ken Koelsch, tours of the bus and free food for GCI’s Customer Appreciation Day.
The stop at GCI also included interviews with Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott in the early afternoon. Walker spoke with C-SPAN host Peter Slen, and said he was impressed with how thorough Slen’s questions were.
“He’d obviously done his homework,” Walker said in an interview with the Empire afterward.
In the 20-minute conversation, Slen asked Walker about the state’s economy, the recent tariffs that were put on Alaska seafood, the fact that Walker is the nation’s only independent governor and more.
Walker said Slen also asked him whether he thinks the capital should be moved from Juneau.
“I said I think it’s exactly where it needs to be,” Walker said. “There’s no reason to move it.”
Neiderer said these interviews with statewide leaders have been enlightening. C-SPAN, which is an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, has been broadcasting since 1979 and has largely focused on covering the federal government.
Getting perspectives from governors and other state officials, Neiderer said, will add a new dimension to the network’s usual daily coverage.
“We’re D.C.-focused, but we do have focus on state issues as well,” Neiderer said. “It complements what we do in covering the American political process.”
On board the bus, there were tablets loaded with information about U.S. government history, clips of pop culture icons doing interviews on C-SPAN and even quizzes for people to see how well they know their government. There are TVs, a selfie station and a functional TV studio where Walker and Mallott recorded their interviews.
The bus has been traveling to schools and cities around the country since 1993, Neiderer said, though the inner-workings of the vehicle have changed dramatically over the years as technology has evolved. One of the main objectives of touring this bus around the country, he said, is to let people know about all the services C-SPAN offers. As technology develops, so does C-SPAN’s approach.
Sam Jordan, the education technology coordinator for the Alaska Department of Education, took a tour of the bus Monday and was surprised at what he learned. C-SPAN has its footage dating back nearly 40 years all archived for free online, Jordan said, which can be a tremendous resource in classrooms.
“It just amplifies the effect of talking about a topic when you can pull up a video of a president doing a declaration of war or a protest happening or some kind of event that happened,” Jordan said. “The fact that C-SPAN is offering it for free is really valuable, especially at a time when teachers are looking for resources they don’t have to necessarily purchase.”
Jordan said he’s going to get that information out to educators throughout the state, spreading the word that this valuable and free resource is available.
Others from local organizations dropped by, enjoying the weather and the tours of the bus. Later in the day Monday, C-SPAN was scheduled to interview Tlingit author and Alaska State Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes. On Tuesday, the C-SPAN crew is interviewing author Sarah Isto and Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl. The bus will make trips to the downtown dock, the Soboleff Center (Sealaska Heritage Institute) and the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives and Museum.
Getting footage of these local sites to a national audience, Walker said, can only be a good thing.
“I think anybody that comes here with a camera to talk about Alaska across the country, across the world, I’m thrilled,” Walker said. “I’m happy they’re here.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.