Happy Birthday, C-SPAN

This morning I was reading one of the latest offerings from long time friend of Hot Air, Andrew Malcolm. (And you should too… it’s hilarious, in that unique style Andrew has.) In it, he notes the 34th birthday of C-SPAN, along with some viewership numbers which came as a surprise to me.

Who exactly are C-SPAN’s viewers? According to its own anniversary poll, the network has about 47 million viewers per week–51% male, 49% female and 47% college graduates. Viewership is highest among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic.

Viewers are politically-involved and describe themselves as liberal (26%), conservative (31%) and moderate (39%).

But that wasn’t the biggest shock, I’m ashamed to say. I knew that the network covers all of the day to day, nuts and bolts happenings of the government in a way which is only appreciated by the true geeks, but they have one other aspect of their service which should be enshrined as a national treasure.

Now, get this, the C-SPAN video library is searchable! And you can edit out and copy any segment you choose. So, if you want to hear, see and read what someone told a House committee in 1994, it’s all right here, free for you. Other than that, the 170,000-plus hours in C-SPAN’s Video Library are perfectly useless for historians, students, journalists and opposition researchers.

I confess, I was unaware of this. The videos all have transcripts and session notes which are fully searchable. Whether you’re a writer or an interested consumer of political news, this is pretty amazing. Just for a shot in the dark, I plugged in the name of Joe Scarborough… not from his current role as a morning talk show host, but from his days in Congress. The site immediately delivered 170 videos of Joe speaking on a range of bills and debate topics spanning his entire career, including this gem from 1991.

It’s all there, dating back well into the 80’s 90’s. And if you’re digging for material on people in the news in Washington today, you know that a long reach into history is really useful. Some of these people hang around for so long that they make herpes look easy to get rid of. It’s truly an amazing tool and I thank Andrew for bringing it to our attention.

UPDATE: (Jazz) An editing note. Andrew contacted me and said the 1984 date was a typo, so it’s the early 90’s, not the 80’s. Our apologies.