Change is a constant force in the world and in every life. Sometimes it is carefully planned. Other times it is completely unexpected. Last week the public learned that two giants in the world of information are making changes. Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer offer printed editions and C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb is stepping down as CEO.
Britannica was first published 244 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland “by a society of gentlemen in Scotland” but the foundation for encyclopedias began with Greek philosophers in the 1st and 2nd centuries. They said that everything that can be learned by man in this life should be organized into a work that explains all the various kinds of knowledge.
The Romans acted on that theory by compiling the first encyclopedia organized by classifying information from all the sciences, history, arts, biography and subject matter. Over many years every country added their versions of the encyclopedia.
In 1768 Encyclopedia Britannica printed two volumes and added the third in 1771. The title page stated that these books had been compiled on a new plan which arranged the subjects alphabetically. The second edition ten years later had grown to ten volumes and by the sixth edition the words “revised, corrected and improved” appeared.
Bowing to the ever-whirling wheels of change in 1994 they became the first encyclopedia to appear on the Internet. Now in 2012 Britannica appears online but no longer printed on paper. I understand but I consider my 1969, 23 volumes a treasure and they will remain on the shelf as long as I live.
Brian Lamb, founder, chairman and CEO of C-SPAN, is equally treasured by me. Born in Indiana seventy years ago his teen years revolved around music. He was a drummer and a disc jockey on local radio where he had the opportunity to interview many of music’s biggest stars. He graduated from Purdue with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech and then went into the Navy where he spent some time in the Pentagon.
Lamb returned to Indiana after his service and worked at the local TV station. Soon he became press secretary for a senator and in Washington, D.C. he became the assistant for media and congressional relations to the director of the White House office of Telecommunications Policy. During LBJ’s administration he was a social aide and escorted Lady Bird down the aisle for the wedding of Lynda and Chuck Robb. Later he was the editor of several media magazines.
By 1977 all these experiences led to the idea of creating a public affairs-oriented cable network presenting an unedited look at the government in action. Lamb made the proposal to a group of TV cable executives and in December 1977, they accepted his plan. On March 19, 1979 there was live coverage of the first televised debate in the House of Representatives.
From one camera and one TV channel, C-SPAN now has three 24-hour channels presenting an unfiltered view of government and politicians at work. Lamb says, “C-SPAN is the voice of America, with all its flaws.”
I hope he will continue hosting Book Notes and Q&A. Those informative interviews prove what a tough taskmaster Lamb is. He spends an average of twenty hours reading and preparing for each interview. What a difference from so many interviews with authors and politicians. Many authors realize quickly the interviewer has not even read their book. Instead any personality agreeing to be interviewed by Brian Lamb know they too should be well prepared to answer any question.
Someone said the world spins forever on change and we can only hope the changes made by these two givers of knowledge will be successful.