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Paper made history with coverage of inauguration

January 24, 2009

History was made Tuesday.

You know about the inauguration of President Obama, but The Herald-Mail staff made a small historical splash of its own, giving readers and Web users greater depth of coverage.

The company deployed resources that allowed readers and Web users to experience the inauguration in several ways -- live through their computers that tapped into an Associated Press video feed; through constant Web updates that tracked the progress of a bus full of locals attending the event; through a video diary of another reporter attending inauguration; and in comprehensive coverage in Wednesday's edition of The Herald-Mail.

I enjoyed watching it all come together Tuesday. Early in the morning, I visited www.herald-mail.com and selected a view from a camera perched on the Washington Monument. The sight of the massive, tightly packed crowd reaffirmed the serenity I felt watching from a desk chair.

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I looked at the crowd and wondered if Herald-Mail reporters Kate Alexander, Tiffany Arnold and Erin Cunningham were part of it. The three already had been awake for anywhere between four and six hours at that point. Kate and Erin piled onto buses departing the Tri-State area early Tuesday. Tiffany was making her way into Washington from Upper Marlboro, Md.

Another couple of clicks on www.herald-mail.com revealed an update Erin had sent. She had arrived at RFK Stadium. Erin followed Anne Seibert of Clear Spring -- one of many locals to make the trip. If you wanted to know what it was like to be in that crowd, Erin revealed the details and she did so in real time. Web site visitors could follow along with Seibert as she made her way toward the National Mall for the ceremony.

Meanwhile, Kate followed Franklin County, Pa., residents who also braved the cold to experience a historic moment. Kate's story and photo were published in Wednesday's newspaper.

Tiffany called in later Tuesday and said the battery in her video camera had died, but she had good information. She had used the Metro to get into the heart of the District and she got as close as she could. If you have yet to glimpse the inauguration from the crowd's point of view, I recommend visiting herald-mail.com and searching for "Inauguration Day: The scene in D.C."

Later in the afternoon, more editors arrived to prepare Wednesday's newspaper to make sure readers had a full picture of the inauguration to go with all of the local news of the day. And we had far more news -- stories that would make the front page on any other day. Reporter Don Aines had filed a story about a fatal crash on Interstate 81 that claimed the lives of two U.S. servicemen. Plus, we found out a well-established Hagerstown restaurant, The Grille at Park Circle, closed Tuesday.

I felt good Tuesday night. The newsroom had sent a solid, informative newspaper to press, and we had posted additional, unique layers of historical coverage online.

Jake Womer is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7594, or by e-mail at jakew@herald-mail.com.

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