Media circus revs up for Obama inauguration

18th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Stories don't get much bigger than January 20 -- the swearing-in of the first black US president, the end of the George W. Bush era, and a moment of hope in time of economic crisis.

New York -- Barack Obama needs just 35 words to become president on inauguration day. The international media will respond with millions.

Stories don't get much bigger than January 20 -- the swearing-in of the first black US president, the end of the George W. Bush era, and a moment of hope in time of economic crisis.

"Imagine the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and World Cup soccer all rolled into one," said Rich Hanley, communications professor at Quinnipiac University. "And put the British coronation in there as well."

Perhaps no other world figure can compete with the media frenzy generated by the charismatic Obama.

This was true throughout his odds-defying political rise, then presidential campaign, and it will be even truer the day he takes office.

Even in less tumultuous years, US inaugurations are a made-for-TV set piece.

This time, record numbers of journalists are fighting for places to witness Obama appear on the steps of the US Capitol building, utter the brief oath of office, then give his inaugural address.

"There's interest from everywhere in the globe -- Gabon, Ethiopia, everywhere in Eastern Europe, Slovenia, everywhere in Scandinavia, all of Asia, Thailand, Indonesia," said Joe Keenan with the Senate press gallery, which issues press accreditations.

"We have thousands of television people, weeklies, monthlies, periodicals. Far more are being turned down than are getting in."

Leading this stampede will be the US television networks.

NBC promises no less than 21 hours of continuous coverage, including a one-hour live special from the evening balls in the capital. Rivals CBS and ABC will also have special reports.

C-SPAN, the publicly funded channel known for unedited broadcasts of events in Congress, will telecast the entire jamboree, including the train trip Obama plans to make on January 17 from Philadelphia to Washington. That's no less than four days of wall-to-wall coverage.

Even networks not exactly known for political reporting will be in Washington.

These include music channel MTV, black-orientated BET, and children's entertainment channel Nickelodeon, which will cover the event for the first time and is even sending a pair of young correspondents.

Keith Peterson at the government-supported Foreign Press Center in Washington said Internet facilities had been prepared for reporters arriving from abroad just for the event.

"We're thinking of putting time limits on how long you can sit there, because it could get so busy," Peterson said.

Hanley predicted a day of record media hyperbole, gushing commentaries, and exhaustive, maybe exhausting analysis. "The cliches will be flying."

For the eloquent Obama, this will be his greatest opportunity yet to work the crowds -- the world over.

But after the party comes the hangover, Hanley warned.

"It's a dream and he'll wake up from that dream on Wednesday morning and find the cold bitter reality."

Sebastian Smith/AFP/Expatica

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