By Judy Kurtz
C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb says “you can imagine that I don’t agree” with Rep. Don Young’s recent remarks that the nonprofit network is “probably the worst thing that happened to the Congress.”
“I think it’s sad that, you know, Don Young is only about one of about five members of Congress in January that will have been here before television came to Congress. So, he knows a little bit about what it was like before television cameras came,” Lamb tells ITK.
“Never in the history of human beings have they had an opportunity to hear the kind of discussion that [C-SPAN has] been able to bring to them over the last 35 years. It seems like there’s a tradeoff,” contends Lamb. “These are grown men and women. They are elected to represent their public. They can come to town and ought to be able to do their business in front of a camera.”
Lawmakers have been “doing their business” under the watchful eye of C-SPAN’s lenses since 1979, when Lamb created the network as a public service.
Ten years later, “Booknotes” — which would become the longest-running author interview program in American history — made its debut. Lamb and the C-SPAN team collected some of the longtime interviewer’s most compelling conversations from his time behind the hosting chair of “Booknotes” and “Q&A” in the new book, Sundays at Eight: 25 Years of Stories from C-SPAN’s Q&A and Booknotes.
Some of the never-before-published interviews featured essay-style in the book include historian David McCullough, author Christopher Hitchens, Senate historian Donald Ritchie and disgraced former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio).
Lamb says beyond loving to talk to anyone with a good story to tell, his favorite interviews are with historians. Former Republican presidential candidate Ross Perot proved to be the toughest nut to crack for the Indiana native.
“He had the ability just to stop in the middle of an interview and say, ‘I’m not going to answer that, move on.’ It made it very difficult because he had a lot of things he wouldn’t talk about,” the journalist recalls.
Lamb says politicians have become “less and less interesting” over the years because “they’ve been trained to just say only so much so that they avoid a headline the don’t want.” And some politicians have the opposite problem, he contends, “Some of them have figured out the more controversial they can be, the more incendiary they can be, the more chance they have of being on these programs or making news.”
When he’s not prepping for interviews — he estimates he’s spent 20 hours with each book — Lamb is making a lot of noise at home. A music lover, he has a “significant number” of drums at his house. “I still apply what little rhythm I have left to my home drums,” he says with a chuckle.
At 72, Lamb doesn’t miss a beat when ITK asks how he wants to be remembered.
“I don’t have any particular interest in being remembered,” he says. “The work we’ve done here speaks for itself. I’m not going to worry too much about it. … I won’t be here to remember so it’s up to others to make that decision.”