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C-SPAN publicity tour lands at River Ridge

A vice president from the cable network includes the high school on a national tour to see if students are watching.

Published January 22, 2006

NEW PORT RICHEY - Joanne Wheeler of C-SPAN set out of Washington on a fact-finding mission.

She wanted to better understand how government is being taught today and to learn how to make C-SPAN more accessible to students.

Wheeler, C-SPAN's vice president of education relations, also wanted to visit someplace where she'd never been and where she didn't know anyone.

And so, she came to Pasco County.

Wheeler faced teacher Skip Glover's second-period honors American government class at River Ridge High School on Wednesday morning. She asked how many students watch C-SPAN, a channel created by the American cable television industry to televise congressional sessions and hearings, White House press briefings, speeches and other public affairs events. At first, there was silence.

"I see a lot of stocks on there," Steven Patch, 17, said.

"That's not C-SPAN," Wheeler answered.

She persisted.

"What channel is C-SPAN on?" Ric Hartwell, 18, asked.

"You know, in New Port Richey, Florida, I don't know," Wheeler told him.

Wheeler said that answering these types of questions is exactly why she started traveling and visiting schools around the country.

Only one out of 10 people nationwide watch C-SPAN regularly, and four out of 10 watch it on occasion, Wheeler said.

After stopping in Pasco County, Wheeler hopes to visit schools in Texas, California and New York.

She also wanted to spread the word about C-SPAN's StudentCam, which follows the 2004 "Campaign Cam" by inviting students to identify a political topic of interest and produce a short video documentary.

The deadline for entries is Feb. 28. For information, students can visit the StudentCam Web site at "How many of you have ever operated a video camera?" she asked.

A few had.

Still, Wheeler said her trip to Pasco County was a success.

"I'm fact-finding," she said. "Finding out what kids know and don't know. And building relationships."

Mary Spicuzza covers education. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is

[Last modified January 22, 2006, 01:02:19]

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