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Please click this and help my rating:

July 07, 2003

I called in on C-Span, and you should too

I called in during C-Span's Washington Journal on the 4th of July, when they were taking calls about the U.S.'s planned military tribunals. I'm heartily against the tribunals, which is what I said, along with making the point that it's a pretty sad statement on our existing federal justice system, if it's not sufficient to handle certain types of cases. It's basically saying that sometimes we need to make exceptions to the rights of the accused as outlined in the Bill of Rights. Why? What's wrong with the Bill of Rights?

I learned one thing from my call-in -- don't ask questions. The hosts at C-Span never state opinions, so when you ask a question (even a rhetorical one, as mine were), it makes for a dead spot in the conversation. The hostess helped me out the second time, by coming back with "What do you think?" in response to my question.

Your best bet on C-Span is to either just have a short simple statement, say it, and sign off, or to write down your points as fully as you can while you're on hold. In my experience, you get a minute or two of waiting before you go on, and instead of just pacing around getting nervous, it's better to at least bullet-point the main things you want to say. It's even better to write out the sentences, because if you stall or get off-track, you could stumble, and they usually keep the most articulate (and verbose) people on the longest. There's a maximum time for all callers, but whether you get that whole time or not depends on whether you fill it up well. I only did OK with my time, and my on-air stint was correspondingly short. But some callers get on for a few minutes or more.

People who watch C-Span are generally people who take public affairs pretty seriously. They are a good audience to persuade. I don't know how many people watch it on any given morning, but it's more than just a couple.

So call in! They have call-in periods at other times, like during important votes, after important speeches, and other times. You can e-mail (and fax I think) in too, but calls get the most attention, and make for better persuasion. (Although with textual comments you can be careful to say exactly what you want.) The phone number isn't always the same (often there are different lines for different sides of a debate), and you should know what they're talking about currently before calling in, so I won't post a phone number here. Just tune in. C-Span often isn't as boring as you'd think. The live coverage of Congress usually is, but most of the rest of their programming is really interesting, if you care about the topic. They show all sorts of different forums by various organizations, and you'll see lots of frank and critical stuff -- critical of anything and everything, depending on the forum in question. C-Span is one of my favorite networks, and one of the most educational channels on television. I watch something on C-Span nearly every day, and it's always one of my stops when channel surfing -- because you never know what might be on.

Don't have cable? Go to, and dig through their massive archives. Or watch it live online -- that way you can still call in. :-)

I'm going to post another short entry about my article at LibertyForAll, because the two items don't blend well into one post.

Posted by Lance Brown at July 7, 2003 01:32 AM | TrackBack
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