The 1992 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective

By Robert E. Denton Jr. | Go to book overview

10

Video Verité: C-SPAN Covers the Candidates

Janette Kenner Muir

What C-SPAN does is give everybody a seat at the event.... [It] fulfills one of the great dreams of the people who invented TV—that you can see an event while it's happening, unvarnished, without any commentary, so that people can make up their own minds.

Newton Minnow 1

The 1992 presidential campaign was unique in ways that scholars will study for years to come. There were the obvious differences—a governor from a small southern state overcoming serious credibility challenges, a billionaire running as a third-party candidate mobilizing thousands of people across the country, and a highly popular incumbent president experiencing substantial reversals in public attitudes. There were also differences in the Democratic process itself, including increased participation from citizens through town hall meetings, call-ins, and interactive technologies. One of the most significant changes in the 1992 campaign was the impact of cable television in defining the pivotal moments of the campaign. CNN's Larry King Live served as a centerpiece for cable coverage, providing a forum for each candidate unlike any in previous campaigns. C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) provided another important dimension of the election: its live coverage of candidates, coupled with the Road to the White House series, marked a coming of age for the young network in its contribution to the political process. This coming of age is chronicled in this chapter, with a brief description of the C-SPAN network itself, an analysis of the coverage of the 1992 presidential campaign, with implications and cautions for the future.


THE C-SPAN NETWORK

Founded in 1979, C-SPAN began as the cable network that carried the daytime proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives. Since its inception, the network has evolved into a two-channel, 24-hour operation

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