Saturday, January 31, 2009

Comparing Local and International Coverage of Obama Inauguration

A Nation Reborn... Australian Coverage

Edited by Sally A. Cruikshank
Author: Ellen Schnier

Photo courtesy of WAToday
Aretha Franklin sang 'Our Country 'Tis of Thee' just before President Barack Obama was sworn in and delivered his inaugural speech. Michael D. Shear and Anne E. Kornblut of the Washington Post included this in their article, 'A Historic Inauguration Draws Throngs to the Mall.' Geoff Elliot, Washington Correspondent for The Australian, in 'A Nation Reborn Under President Bush,' left out such details as this and that Mr. Obama used the same Bible Abraham Lincoln used for his first inauguration.

While, of course, Americans are more interested in the details of an event happening in their own country, the Australian journalist spoke more about U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and what General Petraeus was doing during the inauguration.This is only to say that there was an overwhelming and palpable feeling of hope and a sense of history taking place that was felt by Americans on Tuesday and seeped into the Washington Post article. Shear and Kornblut, in introducing the tone on the National Mall in Washington, said the event 'took place among a building air of anticipation' for an inauguration with 'record-breaking attendance.'

President Obama 'looked out at a sea of admirers' while giving his speech, 'chanting his name and straining for a glimpse of the new president.' Elliott, on the other hand, began his article mentioning that one of the new president's first acts would be to stop legal proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. Caught up in the grandness of the day, the American journalists began by saying Mr. Obama has the task of 'reviving a country in crisis.' The words 'hope' and 'change' are used throughout the article.Geoff Elliott said of the president's address, 'The speech was a fairly dour effort for a renowned orator' and reported its 'subdued tone.' While Shear and Kornblut agreed about the 'somber tone,' they called his speech notable for its 'soaring rhetoric.'
Beyond such differences (that can be attributed mainly to the fog of euphoria that seemed to join Americans for a day), much of the commentary overlaps. Both mentioned near the beginning of their articles the economic hardships the country faces and quoted Mr. Obama, 'We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.'Both articles also mentioned the president's discussion of foreign affairs with both ally nations and enemies. 'America is a friend to each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.'
The Australian, offering an international perspective to his comment, added, 'He sent a message to the rest of the world, and Islamic nations, after eight years in which US ties with some of its top allies have frayed, especially after the war in Iraq.' (This certainly speaks to a renewed interest both the new president and other foreign leaders have in moving forward.) Mr. Obama continued, 'To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward' and announced to terrorists, 'We say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.' A message of strength to our enemies in war, both articles included his vow.Aside from quoting similar parts of Mr. Obama's address, both articles mentioned that on Wall Street, stocks took a tumble throughout the day, signaling even greater economic demise.

Very little was mentioned about President Obama's race in The Australian and in fact never mentions the fact that he is the first African-American president. Elliott simply mentions his 'improbable tilt for the presidency' and said he 'touched only briefly on the triumph he shares with African-Americans.' While theWashington Post would agree that Mr. Obama 'made only glancing references to the racial barrier that had fallen with his historic ascent,' Shear and Kornblut did not downplay its significance. 'His voice echoing across the Mall, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the 1963 march on Washington, Obama saluted the progress the nation has made in healing racial division.' They mentioned his reference to slavery, how ancestors 'endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth' and hailed 'our patchwork history.' It is evident that even if the new president did not bring his race to the forefront of his speech, the rest of the nation did.
Lastly, it is interesting to note that George W. Bush, upon being relieved of his duties and boarding a plane to Texas, received 'plenty of jeers from a crowd eager to see a new chapter in the U.S. story (from The Australian). 'Some of the crowd booed at the sight of Bush,' the Washington Post relayed, "who left office as one of the least popular presidents in U.S. history." Some things are too obvious to go unnoticed..."

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