By Nikki Schwab, Washington Whispers.
If you thought covering the inauguration sounded like a plum assignment for a reporter, think again. A panel of inaugural planners and seasoned reporters told us journos today that they expect Barack Obama's inauguration to be cold, crowded, and most likely chaotic, as several million Americans swarm Washington, D.C., to catch a glimpse of the first black president being sworn in. The biggest issue? Transportation. "The Metro will be a frightening nightmare," says Jim Carroll of the Louisville Courier-Journal, a reporter who has covered inaugurations since the '80s and is familiar with Washington's already overly crowded subway system. Driving was also discouraged, making walking the only seemingly viable option. "Probably more important than what your stories are is how you're going to get from where you live to where you're working that day—and the answer is probably your feet," warns Carole Florman, communications director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. "Or sleeping in your office the night before, which is what we're all going to do," she adds.
Panelists also advised those journalists lucky enough to get credentials for the main event that they should arrive earlier then most of the public, say 6 a.m., which means braving the cold for a cool six hours before Obama is sworn in. Reporters should bring pencils (ballpoint pens don't work in the bitter cold), wear long underwear, and know where the nearest phones are in case cellular service becomes spotty, although Verizon is beefing up coverage in D.C. for the event. In addition, thermoses and umbrellas aren't permitted, and there will be no power cords for the press, so forget using that laptop. And the last bit of advice? "Have fun," says Carroll. "You're going to be witnessing a piece of history, and it'll be over before you know it."