Jeremy Art, digital and social media specialist for C-SPAN, was like someone out of central casting: crisp suit; articulate; very D.C. Art clearly loves his job, and he shared his knowledge and enthusiasm during a recent gathering of LINCS members in Washington, D.C.
LINCS—NCSL’s Legislative Information and Communications Staff Section—held its professional development seminar this month in the nation’s capital. The group enjoyed sessions on everything from creativity to managing negative media attention to a social media roundtable, as well as tours of the Newseum and C-SPAN. Thanks to outgoing chair Bladen Finch, who directs the page program in the Virginia Senate, for helping to organize a stimulating PDS. Morgan Blanchard, a communications specialist in the Louisiana Senate, was elected to chair LINCS for the current term through September 2014.
Before Art spoke, we were greeted by Peter Kiley, vice president of C-SPAN Networks, who informed us that contrary to popular belief, the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network is not a government operation. It is a private, non-profit company created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a public service. Then Ellen Schweiger, who directs the assignment desk, pointed out that C-SPAN is not just Washington-centric. She uses stringers from across the country to provide content from the state and local levels.
The entire operation was impressive, including the fact that quite a few C-SPAN staff have worked at the network for decades–some since its inception. Not Art, however. He’s worked there five and a half years, about as long as organizations have realized they need professionals to handle their social media efforts. A lot of folks tend to think of C-SPAN as the staid but invaluable audio-visual keeper of government proceedings, but Art puts a social media shine on C-SPAN's coverage. He blogs. He Facebooks. He tweets. By “consistently engaging in the relevant issues” facing government, C-SPAN’s Facebook fans grew from 7,000 in late 2009 to nearly 220,000 today, and its Twitter followers increased from 18,000 to 422,000 in the same time period.
Art is particularly proud of C-SPAN’s video library, which allows users quick and easy access to video clips dating back to 1987. The videos offer historical perspectives on the news of the day, but Art sometimes finds ways to highlight them in unexpected and fun ways. When the White House announced Jay Carney as its new press secretary in 2011, for example, it took him only minutes to find a 2006 clip in which Carney, then Washington’s bureau chief for Time magazine, said during an interview, “It’s a tricky job. I’m sure I wouldn’t be any good at it.” Then he quizzed us: “Who do you think uses this feature the most?” Since professional communicators are not known for being shy, hands shot up: “CNN!” “Fox News!” Wrong. “Jon Stewart’s Daily Show,” Art answered.
Art also pointed out that the while this extensive record can hold those in the public eye accountable in not-so-serious ways, the clips offer plenty of evidence that public officials are hard-working and professional. The library even holds a video of NCSL members meeting the press following a meeting with President Obama. Art is proud that C-SPAN videos are used by anyone who wants them, including the media, teachers and the general public, offering a truly transparent view of our government in action.
Jane Andrade is Director of Public Affairs for NCSL.