Inauguration Day from the Digital Newsroom

If there was any emotion in the newsroom last Tuesday, it went without expression. When Barack Obama took the oath of office, there wasn’t a cheer or a cry.

Staffers at the Web site followed journalistic protocol and kept a professional attitude despite the loud cheers and claps that erupted via television feeds from the Washington Mall.

It may have been easier for reporters to set aside personal views because they had so much work to do. It was, after all, a story of historic proportions.

Behind the news desk, a live webcast went on for over nine hours featuring well-known journalists Dana Priest, Pulitzer Prize winner, Lois Romano and Chris Cillizza. The analysis was live and audible to everyone in the newsroom.

“It worked like clockwork,” said Sarah Lovenheim, a producer for the Web site’s politics section.

For the politics team, the day was going just as planned until an Associated Press NewsAlert came over the wire: “Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has been wheeled out of the Capitol on a stretcher.”

As fast as that news flashed over the wire, the newsroom kicked into high gear.

Paul Volpe,’s deputy politics editor, said that the first thing he worried about when the Kennedy news came was presentation. He said that the special homepage used for the inauguration took months to design and posting breaking news would require producers to deviate from the design.

“We had to ask if the homepage was equipped to handle breaking news,” he said.

Kennedy’s collapse was non life-threatening and attributed to fatigue, according to later news reports.

Welcome the world of continuous news. While the coverage plan for both The Washington Post and had been in planning since shortly after Election Day, as any news person knows, anything can happen when hundreds of thousands of people gather in one place on a day of high expectations.

Volpe said that’s why he enjoyed working on inauguration day. He was in charge of brining all of the Post’s politics coverage to the Web – and displaying it in appealing ways for readers.

“Today was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was a fun mixture of a lot of things going on at once. Today was a day that reminded me why I like this business.”

AU Senior Jeremy Diamond, 21, worked as a runner for ABC News and noted the differences in Web and television coverage.

“Producers serving major TV networks are mostly contributing to a presentation larger than themselves,” he said, referring to the large amount of logistics that go into a television broadcast, compared to running a Web site. “Producers for the Web bring a much more direct, on-the-ground perspective to their reporting.”

AU Senior Mike Lock, 21, attended the inauguration but looked through’s coverage afterwards.

“I liked Dr. Gridlock’s live transit reports,” he said, referring to the site’s traffic and road conditions blogger.

Lock called his inauguration experience “chaotic” but said he would rather go to the inauguration than sit in an office all day.

In contrast, Volpe said that if he were on the mall, he would be working hard conducting interviews and writing a story in the cold. He said he was happy to be in the newsroom.

Justin Hall, 21, an AU senior, called his experience witnessing Barack Obama’s swearing in amongst millions of people “unbelievable.” He had similar praise for’s coverage.

“I was very impressed they got all angles,” he said. “I think they [covered] [Ted Kennedy] respectfully.”

Chris Cillizza, a blogger and White House correspondent for the Post, dropped by the newsroom after covering the inauguration from a perch near the platform where Obama was sworn in. He called the experience “cold.”

For Lovenheim, Inauguration Day marked the end of a story that she has followed for most of her two-year tenure at

“The major story line now is the first 100 days of the presidency,” she said.


Video: My Trip to Work on Inauguration Day


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