US: American media goes all out to fuel fanfare

Newspapers and online publications invite readers to contribute in commemorating Barack Obama's inauguration as 44th president

The Times of India
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

By Nandita Sengupta

It's almost like a people's festival. From contests and scripting their versions of US president Barack Obama's inaugural address to publishing paid congratulatory messages and becoming part of historical editions, US newspapers have become both inventive and imaginative in the run-up to Obama's inauguration on Tuesday.

Some even have special web sections to keep readers clued in on whether Obama walks his talk. Among the most innovative has been web magazine Slate's contest for the 'aam janta' to pen versions of the inaugural address. In its online project "Lincoln, Kennedy & YOU: An Inaugural Address by the People," participants can browse through what others have written, rate the speeches, and write their own. They can lift the best bits from other speeches and create new versions. Adding, deleting, tweaking and stealing from each other's texts are all allowed in this contest, which closed for new entries early Monday. Readers still had a window of 24 hours to rate the speeches before the winner is announced.

Washington Post gave readers a chance to be a part of their inauguration edition. Capitalizing on the excitement over Barack Obama's inauguration, the Post invited readers to publish congratulatory messages. Taking the classified ads route, readers pay $10 for two lines. As a commentator noted, more than revenue, the idea was a call to readers to be a part of a keepsake edition. Interestingly, some messages also advise the president, for instance giving tips on popular museums his daughters may like to visit. Many have even posted their resumes, hoping for a job in the White House, paying substantially higher for the extra lines. The funda, "Figured this was the best way to grab your attention".

The Obameter, on St Petersburg Times's website, is the paper's way of being a link between readers and The White House. The site will track Obama's follow-through on the 510 campaign promises identified.