Covering the Inauguration from Iowa

Sure, all the action was in DC yesterday. But you didn’t have to be on the Mall to witness history — any place with a TV would suffice. My first thought was to head to the Irish Democrat, but I feared that there wouldn’t be much of a crowd when Obama was sworn in. My next thought was to go to Coe College, but the Gazette’s Iowa City photographer, Brian Ray, was already planning on going to the University. Here’s where Twitter (insert shameless self-promotion here) was useful: I remembered a tweet from Riley’s Cafe saying they had installed four TVs above the counter. Perfect! How much more American can it get?

Riley’s Cafe owner Phil Pankey of Cedar Rapids, left, and patron Gary Allyn Lewis of Cedar Rapids watch the Inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. The cafe had their four televisions turned to four different channels, all broadcasting the ceremony.

What you can’t see in the photo above is that Gary is deaf, and was attentively reading the closed captioning. When he got up to leave, I wrote in my notebook, “Your name for the Gazette?” and he wrote his name for me. “Cedar Rapids?” I wrote, and he responded with a nod. There was some back and forth on the correct spelling of his name before he pulled out his drivers license (so much easier). “Thanks!” I wrote and he left the cafe with a smile and a handshake. Communication barriers have been an issue a few times this year — most notably, covering the immigration raid in Postville. My high school French classes aren’t much help (”Comment vous s’appelle?” doesn’t elicit much response, and, in fact, may still be wildly incorrect), so I rely on what little Spanish I know (”Su nombre?”). On another note, I spent several minutes talking to a table of women whose photo we didn’t end up using. There’s so much emphasis now on social media and online networking that it’s good to actually talk to our readers face-to-face and hear their thoughts on our coverage.

Later in the afternoon, I went with reporter Erika Binegar to the Southside Boys and Girls Club Inaugural Ball. I spent a good deal of time observing, looking for the kids I thought might make for the best photos when there was some action in the crowd. Star and her daughter Joy were incredibly enthusiastic, and when the crowd began to chant “Yes We Can!” (and the excitement was almost palpable), I knew exactly who to place myself in front of for the photograph. Star’s son Jonathan was celebrating his birthday yesterday, and I’m sure it’s a day he’ll remember for a long time.

Star Holmes-Word and her daughter Joy Nance, 8, chant “Yes We Can!” during the Southside Boys and Girls Club Inaugural Ball on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009.

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