By Keith Mansur
Oregon Cannabis Connection
I will admit it. I am a political junkie. I have been almost my entire life … since the Watergate scandal in 1973-74. At the time of the hearings, I was only about eight years old, but I sat and watched riveted many afternoons after school with my mother. I would have her explain some of the people and events that happened, why it was such a huge issue, and why the person was testifying.
At the time, there was only the big three networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS. They provided substantial coverage of the hearings, but they also had daily programming that took precedence in many cases, leaving a substantial portion of the hearings not televised, though we had Walter Cronkite and other righteous news anchors to let us know the important points we missed.
Fast forward to 1979 and the then blossoming cable and satellite industries made an agreement to fund and distribute a non-profit channel to cover only Congress. They named it C-Span, which is an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network. There first broadcast was March 19, 1979 and featured a short speech by then Representative from Tennessee Al Gore, Jr. To this day the network receives no public funding or underwriting for support.
C-Span is the purest information source there is for federal and congressional media coverage. It’s correspondents takes no particular political viewpoint and try to be completely objective in their reporting. They now have a whole schedule of great programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week and cover both houses of congress and all congressional hearings.
Needless to say, I was a happy teenager. Even though I only had access to the channel at my fathers house since my mother did not have cable TV, I still loved the coverage and would watch regularly.
My favorite show on C-Span for the past two decades has been Washington Journal. The show aired only on Wednesdays originally, but moved to a daily show and eventually even on Weekends. By 2001, they expanded the program to 3 hours each day starting at 7am EST, but is sometimes preempted by special events.
The show is interesting for two main reasons. They interview knowledgeable and significant people on current topics, and they also have viewer call-in segments during which anyone that has a phone can participate. The call-in segments are included while guests are there which allows citizens to ask them questions directly. One drawback is that you have to be an early riser to participate if you live in the Pacific time zone.
On July 31st Washington Journal had a hour long call-in session, hosted by Pedro Echevarria, that discussed recreational marijuana legalization. After a brief introduction relating to current state efforts around the nation, he opened the phones. To keep the comments equally divided, they provided two lines for callers — one for those supporting legalization and one for those opposed.
Comments were all over the place, which is typical. Many viewers were well versed in the legalization movement and understood the purpose, impact, and reasons. A lot of viewers also chimed in that had no idea what marijuana was about and still believe it’s a horrible drug.
As always, Echevarria provided great commentary when needed, had viewers expand on their points often, and kept the people on track and the comments as brief as possible. Viewers covered most of the major issues that revolve around marijuana legalization, some with colorful language and some with reefer madness arguments. He started off with two Marylanders on opposite sides of the issue.