Founding Father: How C-SPAN's Brian Lamb Changed Politics in America/Television News: A Handbook for Reporting, Writing, Shooting, Editing & Producing

Article excerpt

* Frantzich, Stephen E. (2008). Founding Father: How C-SPAN's Brian Lamb Changed Politics in America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. pp. 208.

Hawkins, Steve and Teresa Keller. (2009). Television News: A Handbook for Reporting, Writing, Shooting, Editing & Producing. Scottsdale, AZ: HoIcomb Hathaway, Publishers Inc. pp. 436.

Too often broadcast journalism course texts fall disparately into two categories: those that focus on production while neglecting the importance of writing a good story, and those that focus on writing without taking into consideration the multimedia necessary to produce the story in a way that provides more meaning to its readers. Unfortunately, no matter the category into which these texts fall, all inevitably disregard the bigger picture of why journalists take up the pen in the first place and gloss over the great responsibility that journalists bear.

Two texts that take a stab at filling these holes, in very different ways, are Stephen E. Frantzich's biography of Brian Lamb, Founding Father: How CSPAN's Brian Lamb Changed Politics in America, and Steve Hawkins's and Teresa Keller's third edition of Television News: A Handbook for Reporting, Writing, Shooting, Editing & Producing.

While one is a narrative biography and the other is a textbook, both put into context the important role a journalist plays in society as a gatekeeper of information.

Setting aside the prolific praise of Lamb's accomplishments, overexposed use of a bridge metaphor, lack of attention to editorial detail (typos), and frenetic topic jumping, Frantzich retells a remarkable story in Founding Father that this generation's journalism students would benefit from reading.

Frantzich's story of Lamb is the hometown boy who makes good by breaking the news media mold and setting out on an unlikely journey to create a television channel and, eventually, an empire founded on the desire to give the public unadulterated news. While idealistic at times, Lamb follows through on his promise to establish one news media outlet without gratuitous sound bites and sensationalist tactics.

While some of Lamb's management style is at times unbelievable, it's easy to see he is well intentioned and wants to get the point across that his management style is quite different than most. Whether Lamb's style goes over with C-SPAN staff as well as Frantzich would like us to believe is dubious, particularly when he mentions the lackluster desire to institute a union.

Most journalism students (at least we hope) know the story of Woodward and Bernstein, but Lamb, through Frantzich, has a different perspective, serving in media relations in the Nixon administration prior to creating C-SPAN. Lamb's story provides an insider's view rarely seen of Beltway politics. Additionally, Frantzich offers a valuable analysis of sensationalist news and an interesting take on various celebrities before they were famous. Observations on Lamb's behalf are worthwhile, particularly surrounding the Vietnam War, as students will most likely never experience for themselves the challenges he faced. The process of getting cameras inside the chambers of Congress, something most take for granted today, is interesting to watch unfold. Frantzich's text is not a history lesson so much as a lesson in what it means to be a serious journalist doing the people's work.

As a book for use in coursework, this work is helpful as a supplemental text. It gives an insightful view into the creation of C-SPAN and offers students a preview of some of the powerful characters who populate the news business. Further, rather than laying out the ABC's of news production, it is a work better suited to capturing students' imaginations, and provoking meaningful classroom discussion in a course geared toward journalism theory.

The Hawkins and Keller text conforms more to mainstream production course books; however, it does something most do not. …


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