RALEIGH — Much has changed in N.C. politics during the past 19 years. The “NC SPIN” television program has documented those changes for viewers throughout the state. Founding host and moderator Tom Campbell discussed a recent “NC SPIN” milestone — 1,000 episodes — during a speech for the John Locke Foundation. He shared themes from the speech during a conversation with Mitch Kokai for Carolina Journal Radio.

He also discussed the program’s move to UNC-TV, where it will air Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 12:30 p.m., beginning Friday, Jan. 19.

(Head to http://www.carolinajournal.com/radio/ to find recent CJ Radio episodes.)

MK: That is a lot of TV. And you have obviously, during the course of that time, seen a lot of changes in North Carolina politics.

TC: So many that it’s almost hard to put your finger on all of them. I think the biggest change I’ve seen, first of all, [is] … the shift of power in North Carolina. It used to be that most of the political power was east of [Interstate] 95. No longer the case. All of the East now is solidly red: Republican. The more urban areas are now more Democratic, so far as elections are concerned. The legislature itself has changed quite a bit since my dad served there back in the ’70s. It is more highly partisan, less collegial than it used to be.

I can remember even when I was Harlan Boyles’ chief deputy that it was not uncommon at all to have these big receptions at Glaxo and SAS. … You’d see the Republican and Democrat legislators, and they’d have arms around each other’s shoulders, and they were telling stories to each other. And a fair amount of legislation actually got done during those times, as they were able to get to know each other and cross the aisles to get work done. Not so today.

The other thing is that whereas we like to talk about the fact that the power resides in the Senate president pro tem and the House speaker, the reality is today it really resides with the caucuses. And in both instances, Republican and Democratic, those caucuses are pretty well split. In fact, they’re bigger factions there than people know. And one of the things that Thom Tillis used to tell me when he was House speaker is, “I can only get done what my caucus will allow to work.” And sometimes, the old mainstream Republicans, for instance — I’m talking about the Jim Holshouser, the Jim Martin, the Jim Broyhill faction of the Republican Party.

MK: All the ones named Jim?

TC: Yeah. They’re still there, but they’re a lot quieter and more silent. The more fundamental, to-the-right Republicans have taken over. In like manner, the same thing has happened with the Democratic Party. You don’t hear much from the mainstream Democrats that we used to know through the years.

So a lot of political changes, but I think the biggest change has probably taken place in the media. When you go back and look at it 19 years ago — yes, there was an internet. Yes, there were flip-top cell phones, if you remember, but the smartphone hadn’t been invented. The internet itself was not as much of an entity. People weren’t into the blogging, and the Facebook, and the Google, and the social media, and all of the other things that were taking place.

Newspapers were still the king of the hill, so to speak. Television stations were rising, emerging, local TV. And cable television, the networks, cable television networks, were just beginning their ascent and influence on politics.

All of these things have had just a tremendous impact. And frankly, it makes us believe that with this has been a large splintering or fracturing, if you will, of the audiences. And because of that fact, we think that what we’re doing is perhaps maybe even more important today than it was in 1998 when we first got started, because there are not many places where you can go and get kind of a balanced debate for the Old North State, as we like to say.

MK: … You referenced this: the change in the collegiality and the change in the way that both sides of a political argument will operate and respond to each other. That’s one thing that really hasn’t changed on “NC SPIN.” You get people of very different views, but they’ll sit down and talk to each other, and not just shout at each other.

TC: From the outset, one of the guidelines — and, by the way, your listeners might be interested in knowing how this all got started. I was at an event one night, and ran into [John Locke Foundation Chairman] John Hood, and told him I’d been a big fan of John McLaughlin and “The McLaughlin Group” on PBS. I was a licensee for Fox 50, the television station here in Raleigh/Durham, and I was intrigued by McLaughlin’s show. McLaughlin himself was a bit brusque, and I didn’t like him as a moderator all that much. But I liked the idea of having a show where you could hear different sides of issues.

And I mentioned that to John, and he said, “Funny you should mention that because,” he said, “I used to work as a researcher for Fred Barnes on that show. I know how the show’s built. I know how it’s formatted. If you’re really serious about wanting to start a show like that in North Carolina, I can tell you how to do it. And, by the way, I’d like to be on it.” And I said, “Well, OK. You’ll represent one end of the spectrum. We’ve got to get someone that will represent the other end.” And both of us, just almost simultaneously, said Chris Fitzsimon. We met at TK Tripps restaurant, sat down over a napkin over lunch one day, and that’s how the show got started.

MK: And both Chris Fitzsimon and John Hood continue to serve as your standard left/right anchors on that show today.

TC: And have through most of the 1,000 shows. An awful lot of the viewers tell me that they tune in to watch John and Chris, hoping that they’ll get into it with each other. But back to your original point, we said from the outset, “We’re Southern ladies and gentlemen. I will not moderate, I will not produce a show in which everybody is yelling at each other, calling each other names, speaking over top of each other. The viewer gets no benefit from that whatsoever, and I’m just not going to be part of that. I don’t want it.”

MK: Well, it’s a very interesting element that we don’t see in much of the rest of politics today, a civil debate on issues.

TC: As Chris says, “We disagree without being disagreeable.”

MK: Exactly. Now, if people are listening to us and saying, “Yeah, ‘NC SPIN,’ one of the main ways that I get news about politics and policy, but I haven’t seen it lately. Where did it go?” Tell us what is currently happening with “NC SPIN.”

TC: Our last show on commercial TV stations across the state was December 31. Mitch, we’re delighted that we are now part of the UNC-TV network, and that we will be airing Friday nights at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday afternoons at 12:30 p.m. And you can see us on the North Carolina Channel, UNC-TV, Friday nights at 10 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m., and again on Sundays at 10 a.m.