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NPR Prepares to Cover Inauguration Day

On Inauguration Day, KSMU will air live continuous coverage of the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. KSMU’s Missy Shelton had the chance to talk with NPR’s Michele Norris about NPR’s coverage of this historic event.

Shelton: Where will you be physically located during the inauguration ceremony?

Norris: NPR is very fortunate to have an incredible vantage point to view this event. We're on a riser, just to the right of the stage. We're about 100 feet away from the site where Barack Obama will take the oath of office. It's a location that allows us to describe the day and events. We can also see this incredible vista down the national mall. We can see the crowds that will gather. And if I turn just to the right, we can also see the parade route.

Shelton: What have you done as a journalist to prepare for covering this historic day?

Norris: Steve and I spent a lot of time on the road getting to know this candidate as a candidate so we'll bring that knowledge base with us. I've also been reading past inauguration speeches, looking at the historical record, the benedictions, the poems that have been read, the music. I've covered inaugurations past for NPR and when I worked at the Washington Post. So I've been going back in my memory bank and going back through the old files. I know it's a momentous day for this country and I know a lot of people will be depending on us to provide not just a play-by-play but some sort of context. And that's a big assignment. NPR's taking that very seriously. We'll have reporters all over the mall and all over the world. We know a lot of people will watch on TV but I recommend watching the TV and listen to the radio.

Shelton: The election is over and it seems like the focus on Inauguration Day is on the historic nature of the event, the fact that this is the first African-American president to be sworn into office. Do you have to be careful as a journalist not to get caught up in the excitement and historical nature of this moment?

Norris: I endeavor to maintain my objectivity at all times but this is an incredible moment and we reflect what people are experiencing. For this nation to elect a black man as the commander in chief is extraordinary. There are people who will experience that on a lot of different levels. As an African-American who grew up with parents who remembered the barriers they lived with under segregation, I think I bring a certain context to that and that will be part of the coverage.

Shelton: I've been speaking with NPR's Michele Norris about NPR's coverage of Inauguration Day. I'm Missy Shelton for KSMU News.