A small group of IUPUI student journalists were among the nearly 2 million people gathered in Washington DC to celebrate the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, last week.
Having traveled to Washington with a group of 50 students from IUPUI and Indiana University, they had planned to broadcast live from the inauguration.
A joint endeavor between The Sagamore, the IUPUI weekly student publication, JagBytes.com, the online publication, and Jag Radio, the live broadcast was to take place throughout inauguration day in the IUPUI Student Center. Hoping to transmit photos, interviews and possibly video to the students that would be watching back in Indianapolis, but these young journalists soon learned the difficulties that they will face in their future profession.
"A lot of planning went into this trip," said Rose Soliven, a junior in the School of Journalism and former news editor of The Sagamore. "We wanted to do a live broadcast, to use our cell phones to transmit back the story."
On the day of the inauguration the students arrived at four in the morning to an already crowded mall in Washington DC.
"When I got off the bus my adrenaline was pumping my heart was racing," said Sean, a junior in the School of Liberal Arts and a Jag Radio DJ.
This feeling of excitement and anxiousness soon changed to worry as the student journalists soon found out that cell phone use was impossible, ending any possibility of broadcasting live.
"Denis (Jimenez) and Sean (Smith) tried calling every ten minutes," said Rose Soliven, "but we couldn't get through."
"I thought for a moment that I just wanted to leave," said Denis Jimenez, a junior in the School of Journalism and managing photo editor of IUPUI student media, "but then I decided let's just do it."
The journalists had to adapt quickly to gather the story. Armed only with their cameras, recorders and instincts, they pushed forward.
"You always plan for the worst," said Derrick Slack, a junior in the School of Liberal Arts and a DJ with Jag Radio. "Even if we couldn't (broadcast) live we had to capture the story."
They soon found themselves in the midst of the enormous crowd that had come to see Barack Obama sworn in.
"It was amazing, being in the mall with millions of people," said Rose Soliven.
The journalists went to work interviewing students, taking photos and taking in the experience in the hopes of sharing what they had seen, heard and felt with the students back in Indianapolis.
"I wanted to capture the feelings and emotions of as many people as I could," said Sean Smith. "It's hard getting everything, but I wanted to share how gigantic the occasion was."
Adapting and moving forward the students began to gather stories and information. They learned about the people around them and took in the enormity of the experience.
"It was amazing to see people that had traveled so far, from all over the world," said Leslie Cole, a sophomore in the School of Journalism.
Even with all of the excitement, the students still took pause to listen as President Obama gave his inaugural address.
"There was a complete silence, almost magical," said Derrick Slack describing the feeling in the air as President Obama spoke to the crowd of almost 2 million. "When he was done the excitement and chatter returned, but while he spoke, everyone listened so intently."
Despite their inability to report live and having to change everything at a moments notice, the IUPUI journalists feel that the inauguration was one of their strongest moments.
"It is the pinnacle of journalism to cover one of these events," said Denis. "You don't get any better experience."
Through all their struggle, all of the students said they will be better journalists because of it.
"I learned to troubleshoot and think on my feet," said Denis Jimenez. "I (took) some of my best photos."
"It was the experience of a lifetime, and now I have the ability to share my experience," said Leslie Cole; who has been asked by the mayor of
Elwood to share her experience with the people of her home town.
Since returning to IUPUI every one of the student journalists has said they would leap at the opportunity to repeat their experience. When asked why they found it so important to be at the inauguration and to share that experience with their fellow students, the answer was nearly exactly the same.
"This is history," Rose replied with a smile. "And we are part of it."