Newsrooms like the LA Times have distributed protective equipment and held safety trainings to prepare reporters for Inauguration Day. Protests and demonstrations around the ceremony in Washington, DC are typical, but after the riots on January 6, journalists are preparing for another violent outbreak.
“I quickly saw my role as a person who had to adapt,” Kelly told CNN Business. “My goal is to protect my staff, protect my reporters and make sure that everybody is taken care of.”
Covering the inauguration is typically “very predictable,” said Tracy Grant, a 27-year veteran of The Washington Post, where she serves as a managing editor. As defined by the US Constitution, the transition happens at noon on January 20. But other details around the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been uncertain.
“All of the things that are very normed and ceremonial have been up in the air,” Grant said. “Nothing about this has been predictable, and so we are prepared for things to change right up until the last moment.”
BuzzFeed News politics reporter Paul McLeod told CNN Business last week that he was feeling “a bit relieved” ahead of the inauguration. That’s because the Covid-19 test he took after covering the events of January 6 — where many rioters were maskless — came back negative.
Jarrad Henderson, senior multimedia producer at USA Today who is Black, said he was feeling “a little anxious” about the inauguration.
“I don’t know if I’m a target as a Black photojournalist, Black journalist period during this time,” Henderson said. “It’s very exhausting. There’s some threats that are being made. I cannot unsee ‘Murder the Media’ that was etched into the side of the Capitol doors last week.”
Grant said that all reporters covering Inauguration Day for the Post will get a refresher on a training program that teaches them how to make decisions in contentious situations. Post journalists also have received protective gear.
Amalie Nash, senior vice president of local news at USA Today Network, recalled staff members asking, “If I have long hair, should I think about putting it up because it could make me a target and I could be dragged by my hair?”; “What’s the best way to file if my phone has gone down?”; “What is the best way to get out of a situation if it turns volatile?”
McLeod of BuzzFeed News said he will be wearing running shoes on Inauguration Day along a bulletproof vest and a backpack storing a helmet, a respirator mask and goggles. He had worn some of these items on January 6.
For Inauguration Day, McLeod said he plans to not wear anything that could identify him as a member of the press. One striking difference he noticed between Trump rallies and the insurrection was the aggression from the crowd.
“For all of the pageantry and theater of booing the media, when you go up to talk to people afterward, in my experience, they’d actually been pretty polite,” McLeod said about covering Trump rallies. “I identified myself as a reporter to one person [on the 6th] who started screaming at me and trying to scream at other people around that I was a reporter and calling all kinds of attention to me. I got out of there, and obviously, stopped identifying myself as a reporter to anyone.”
Even with the potential for violence, journalists say they have a duty to be there.
Henderson, the USA Today producer, echoed Carroll’s sentiment on the role and responsibility of media to document history.
“I just applaud everybody who’s going out, who’s prepared, who’s already gone through this, who, despite their own personal and professional trauma, are still going out to document this history,” Henderson said.