I recommend (after a colleague recommended it to me) reading Nancy Franklin’s “On Television” column in the current New Yorker about the experience of watching President Obama’s inauguration on cable TV (an experience that so many of us shared). Franklin writes about what she got:
Bundled up in heavy coats and scarves and hats, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Soledad O’Brien, and Roland Martin seemed mostly to talk about the weather, though we also got to hear that O’Brien had come down from New York on the same train as Beyoncé. Over on MSNBC, Chris Matthews was his usual combination of extremely embarrassing and kind of insightful.
What she didn’t get:
Any viewers who were planning on attending had previously been asked by CNN to e-mail pictures of “the moment”—Obama raising his hand to take the oath of office—to the network, whose gadgets would then create a huge composite, three-dimensional-seeming photograph. As new as the ability to accomplish such a thing may be, it came across as a tired gimmick. History was happening; it was a day of ecstasy and gravity—and CNN wanted your cell-phone pictures. But the day simply couldn’t be captured that way.
And, what she missed:
The morning after the Inauguration, something felt wrong to me. I was sad and unsettled, as if I’d had a bad dream. Later in the day, I realized how far away I’d felt from the events of the previous days. I’d seen Obama become President, verified that—phew!—it had actually happened, but I hadn’t felt connected to it, except, oddly enough, when I watched scenes of other people watching it on TV, like elderly black men and women, who sat at home and wept as they saw something that they had never imagined would happen. I should have put the remote down and got myself to Washington and stood in the crowd, freezing and cheering, maybe even, for the first time, waving a flag. January 20th might have been the greatest day in my lifetime. By watching it on TV, I’d missed it.