- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama‘s inauguration became a dream come true for the media, which often are all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Not so on Tuesday.

Journalists and news organizations went through their paces from dawn to dusk, some late into the night.

The inauguration was dramatically framed as “The Moment” on CNN, “The Hour of Change” on Fox News. Only C-SPAN presented the historic event with unembellished live sound, free from the patter of pundits and anchors or the distraction of gaudy, on-screen graphics.

Even the most complex packaging of “the moment” could not hide the imperfect oath of office, during which Mr. Obama and Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. mangled a few of the weighty words - about five seconds provided instant headlines, along with a little levity amid all the pomp and circumstance.

Mr. Obama - the subject of press adulation for almost two years - proved to be endearingly human after all.

The new president’s media-savvy legacy was already in full force, meanwhile. At precisely 12:01 p.m., a revamped White House Web site was activated, the emphasis on “transparency, communications and participation,” said Macon Phillips, “Director of New Media for the White House.”

Some media coverage was devoted to residual Bush-bashing.

MSNBC in particular homed in on protesters who taunted former President George W. Bush, according to Newsbusters, a conservative press watchdog. Anchorman Chris Matthews also compared the Bush family to the Romanovs, the reigning family of old Russia.

NBC correspondent Tom Brokaw likened former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in a wheelchair, to “Dr. Strangelove,” from the Cold War-era movie of the same name.

Analysts predicted that the worldwide audience for the inauguration could best the turnout for the Super Bowl, which drew 90 million viewers last year. The claims could be realistic: Nielsen reports that in the U.S. alone, audiences have numbered as high as 42 million - the number of people who tuned in for Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981.

Online viewership also could be sizable. More than 18 million viewed the “live inauguration stream” at a single collaborative video site launched by CNN and Facebook.

Though he has been in office only a matter of hours, there’s already talk that Mr. Obama’s “press honeymoon” of positive coverage could be on the wane. Some news organizations used Inauguration Day to flaunt their mission.

“A vigilant press: There’s a new president, but for journalists, the job is the same - hold government accountable,” said an editorial in the Los Angeles Times. “Today is an occasion for celebration. … It is also, however, a moment in which we must pledge vigilance, not unqualified encouragement.”

The St. Petersburg Times, meanwhile, compiled 510 campaign promises Mr. Obama made, deeming the list “stunning in scope.” The newspaper plans to track the fate of those campaign promises through PolitiFact, its fact-checking office.

Some dreaded the onslaught of inaugural press coverage, though.

“This is what happens when you lose. You have to sit through events like this,” said talk-radio host Laura Ingraham. “You have to give in to the people who won. But you also can’t lose sight of our country.”

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