By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
With 30 years under his belt, Brian Lamb isn't ready to retire just because he's 67. He still wants cameras in courts and in secret press gatherings
Sixty-seven must be the new 47 for C-SPAN's Brian Lamb. He's sounds as feisty as ever as he looks to expand the cable's reach to federal courts and closed-door press events. When will he retire? "I have no idea," says the man behind the public service network that just turned 30. "I do enjoy it. I'm in good health and still have all the energy I ever had."
He'd better. Lamb sees major battles ahead in his fight to get better access—and continued funding from cable networks. First, access. Don't call what C-SPAN does "transparency." He thinks that's a trendy word that isn't as broad as his goal. "It's about openness. Just open it up," he says. As in the Supreme Court, other federal courts, and private press events with government bigwigs, like the famed Gridiron Club dinner, where hot-shot reporters entertain government officials with food and skits. He's hopeful with the lower courts, but the Supremes are another story. When Lamb has personally made the case to the court's justices, "they kind of look at you and say, 'We're just not going to do it.' " They reason it would lead to lawyer showboating or change the formal process. Lamb is having none of that. "It wouldn't change a thing." As for the closed-door Gridiron, he's been begging to cover it for years and mocks reporters for demanding entry to backroom political meetings but then hiding their own schmoozing. On C-SPAN's survival, he's confident, but the current economic crisis gives him pause. "There's just not a great deal of appreciation right now for nonprofits," he says. Still, his cable TV funders "haven't hiccuped" in the recession, a good thing as he moves to debut a revolutionary and searchable video archive of all C-SPAN's footage.
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR
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