Washington, Jan. 21: For two-and-a-half months, he was PEBO to us: President-elect Barack Obama. Yesterday, he became POTUS: President of the United States. The only thing that will probably not change is his lack of drama, the complete absence of any emotion and a loathing for nervousness. Everything else has already changed.
No longer will the journalists, who covered him first as a freshman junior Senator from Illinois and later as a long shot presidential candidate during the Democratic primaries, have the kind of access that we had with Obama.
No more the emails that began with Dear Krishnan..., which were most definitely sent by one of his campaign aides, but nevertheless came in Obamas name.
This was not the way he wanted it to be. On Monday, even on the day before he was sworn in as the 44th US President, Obama sent out a message from his Twitter account urging Americans to offer community service, Gandhian style, in memory of black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Obamas Facebook account is still active, but the last time he put up an update there was on January 17, when he wrote that I recorded a personal message for you, a video announcing the creation of Organizing for America, a grassroots movement for change.
Obama continues to have a presence on MySpace and it remains to be seen what use his White House will make of YouTube that was instrumental in getting the American people to know candidate Obama.
Much will depend on whether the new President gets to keep at least one of his two Blackberrys. I think we are going to be able to hang onto one of these, Obama told CNN shortly before his inauguration day. I want to be able to have voices, other than the people who are immediately working for me, be able to reach out and... send me a message about what is happening in America.
John Podesta, who headed the Obama-Biden transition team, wrote in the Los Angeles Times yesterday that without his Blackberry in the White House, Obama will be like a caged lion padding restlessly around the West Wing, wondering what is happening on the other side of the iron bars that surround the Peoples House. An offline Obama isnt just bad for Barack. It is bad for all of us.
For those of us who reported yesterdays swearing-in on Capitol Hill, the Obama transition teams use of the BlackBerry and other tools of modern information technology was a godsend.
Without that, coverage of the two-million movement that converged on Capitol Hill, the National Mall and along the inaugural parade route in Washington would have been a nightmare.
Unlike any other event of this kind here before yesterday, preparation and orientation for covering the biggest gathering in the history of this capital city was almost entirely by texting. Which meant dealing with acronyms, much less real organisations and even less, any human being or a real voice.
We were already used to PEBO and POTUS, but first, those journalists who wanted to be in the Capitol for the swearing-in had to apply to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, texted to us as JCCIC, for which one had to have prior accreditation to the SPG. Not the Special Protection Group that protects Indian Prime Ministers, but the Senate Press Gallery. SPG would send your particulars to the USSS: the US Secret Service because a presidential inauguration is a National Special Security Event or NSSE.
But that was only for the swearing-in. For all other inaugural events here from the massive opening concert on Sunday to the parade after the swearing-in, journalists had to approach the PIC or the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
In the end, the acronyms that could have filled a small notebook or a journalists guide to the presidential inauguration made things easier for us.
During the entire process of covering Obamas swearing-in, my only human contact with officialdom lasted less than five minutes when I went to physically pick up my credentials at the Washington Convention Centre here.
I applied for coverage online from Assam where I was on holiday last month. Everything that followed was done either online or through my BlackBerry. Journalists got Obamas Capitol speech more than an hour before it was delivered by email.
It was a swearing-in that was run by technology. No wonder Obama is obsessed with keeping his BlackBerry in the White House.