By Lynn Edmonds
Many high school seniors will cast their vote for the first time in the 2016 presidential elections, and they will have to navigate partisan spin from news media, off-topic answers from candidates and the influence of family and friends as they make their decision.
But one station thinks it can make deciding on a candidate a little bit easier for them.
Last Thursday, representatives from the cable channel C-SPAN parked their oversize coach bus outside St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows to educate students about the 2016 presidential elections and the channel’s role in politics.
Marketing Representative Vanessa Torres told students they can get unbiased political coverage on the channel, which films both houses of congress whenever they are in session, and airs other national political events. Torres pointed out that the channel’s archives were a critical resource in determining where candidates have stood on contentious issues over the years.
Many students initially had more questions about the tour bus than the channel.
What’s behind the door? How did the bus get to Hawaii? How much does it cost to fill up the tank? How much did the bus cost? Were some of the questions the students had about the specially outfitted bus, which had multiple TVs and interactive screens, a make-shift studio to film interviews, and two miles of cables underneath its floor.
The controls for the make-shift studio were behind the door, the bus took a ferry to Hawaii, and it costs $600 to fill up the tank and over $1 million for the bus itself.
But two young women made excited eye contact with each other when Torres mentioned a documentary contest sponsored by C-SPAN in which students had to answer the question “What’s the issue you most want candidates to discuss?”
The students said they were undecided, as to whether they would compete for the $5,000 grand prize, which has been won by students from Townsend Harris for the past two years. But they both wanted to focus on police brutality.
Diane Haussermann, chair of SFPS’ Social Studies department, said her students were also concerned about issues like homeland security, conflicts in the Middle East, college loans and the job market.
“They have young fragile minds and they like to get both sides of the story and really make their own decisions,” Haussermann said.
Henry, a senior, was taking AP Government and Politics, and said he wished he had time to get more involved with politics, but school kept him too busy.
But he had watched CNN’s Republican Debate.
“It worries me that half those people up there want to attack each other on a personal level,” the student said.
Torres said C-SPAN could cut through the showmanship and get to the issues.
“We show it to you how it is,” she told the students, with a “fly-on-the-wall” perspective.
The bus was on its way to Manchester, NH to cover campaigning there.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana