Obama Inauguration: Be There Without Being There

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Try the Hometown Paper

For the best inauguration day coverage, it's a good idea to turn to the Washington Post, which will be offering a hometown perspective on the inauguration. Not only is the Post covering the event up close, it also has a lot of multimedia tools to convey what being there in person is like.

And you can get to the info in one click: The Post has a great team of interactive-news producers, and this time they've come up with a special inauguration-coverage widget that you can install on your Web page or blog and click throughout the day. It's not a live stream of information; rather, it refreshes frequently, every time news happens.

If you'll be at work on inauguration day, you might find this a handy little tool to have around. One good strategy is to click on the Post's link every now and then before noon eastern time, and then tune in (on TV, or at CNN.com or another Webcaster) for the swearing-in and Obama's speech.

Local Web 2.0 Sites

I also found a couple of lesser-known mashup sites that are designed to help visitors to Washington, D.C., make sense of it all on inauguration weekend. They're fun to use from afar to get some local color, too.

The first, Navigating Washington, provides a map of the area, with flags marking the locations of events throughout the weekend. Each clickable flag provides a pop-up box containing further information about the event. The site also has a cool feature that allows you to read notes from people from around the world on their way to D.C., describing their experience. A mobile version of the site lets visitors get information while they're moving around in the city.

The second, DC Historic Tours, provides a proper warm-up for anyone preparing for a trip to the city. Among other things, it offers a detailed map view of the inaugural parade route, with pop-up information about landmarks along the way.

Step One: Turn On the TV

Because this is such a huge transition year for the presidency, the TV networks are entering full-court-press mode in covering the event. I won't go into specific coverage schedules here because the schedules are still being announced (consult your local listings), but suffice it to say that any time you might want your inauguration fix starting Sunday evening, one of the major networks will be doing something.

Notably, HBO has purchased exclusive rights to air the inauguration-week kickoff ceremony Sunday night at the Lincoln Memorial. The event will feature a long list of performing artists and luminaries, including the president-elect himself and vice president-elect Joe Biden. HBO will televise the event on an open signal, meaning that cable and satellite subscribers across the country will be able to watch the coverage whether they pay for HBO or not. We're hearing that the ceremony will also be streamed live over the Internet, but that has not been confirmed.

CBS, MSNBC, FOX, CNN, and ABC will be broadcasting live from the inauguration ceremony Sunday, and for most of the day Tuesday, when most will cover the motorcade ride, the swearing-in, Obama's speech, and much of the parade.

If you don't care for the infotainment the networks offer, you can count on C-SPAN for its no-nonsense approach. C-SPAN's coverage is right down the center--and very unlikely to dramatize or play up any aspect of the inauguration. You can also watch the C-SPAN coverage online.

Tuning In While Mobile

You have several options if you find yourself on the go during the inauguration. And by the looks of things, many more people will be watching in this way than ever before.

MobiTV, which provides mobile content to 20 mobile networks, including AT&T, Alltel, and Sprint, says it is busy beefing up its servers for a big mobile-traffic load on Tuesday. The company says its mobile-TV service saw record numbers of subscribers during the presidential debates, and it expects a similar subscription rate for the inauguration.

Of course, other mobile video providers are around (MobiTV competes with Qualcomm's MediaFLO and nontraditional services like SlingPlayer Mobile), but MobiTV's numbers are a testament to the idea that America is increasingly watching live TV events on mobile devices. So if you're out and about on inauguration day, chances are pretty high that you can find decent coverage of the event as part of your mobile video package.

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