How do you make sure you’re not late for one of the biggest parties in American history, aka the inauguration of the nation’s 44th president, Barack Obama? Sleeping in your car, RV, or microvan the night before is a good start.
“All six bridges crossing the Potomac River into Virginia and the arteries leading up to those bridges were closed prior to the inauguration,” recalls veteran news director Jimmie Hollingsworth, who coordinated coverage of the swearing in, parade, and the four major inaugural balls for WJLA ABC-7 in Washington, D.C. “Our station is in Rosslyn, Virginia, on the other side of the river going into D.C.,” Hollingsworth says, “so a lot of our people brought sleeping bags and slept in their cars.”
A story that is both local and global in scope requires a unique touch, explains Hollingsworth. He notes that several local bands in the inauguration parade made good “sidebar fodder” during the coverage. “But the overriding theme,” he insists, “was by far the sheer number of people—reportedly 1.8 million—that came to witness the event. Our biggest challenge was traffic. We had five cameras covering the parade, and the pool feed, which we picked up, probably had about a dozen cameras. I’ve directed Redskin [football] games for 25 years and there were definitely similarities. Neither event is scripted, and you’re looking for small dramatic moments that will tell the larger story.”
Many of Hollingsworth’s most memorable experiences have been presidential. “The year after I arrived [at a local station] in Lynchburg,” he recalls, “JFK was assassinated. My job was to get the bulletin on the air. This was before videotape, so we had no footage from Dallas. All I could do was film the anchorperson reading the story, edit and put it up. I was punching the cameras in the studio myself, and basically learning how to be a director on the air.”
Hollingsworth later went to New York to cover David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon’s wedding. “The night before the ceremony, I was staring up at this massive cake, probably 6 feet tall, and I heard a voice behind me say, ‘Boy, that is a huge cake.’ And when I turned around, I saw Richard Nixon standing there. I introduced myself and he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I know that morning talk show of yours. I really like it.”