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No tears, just laughter and an eye on the soccer score

Reporting again from the newsroom of Folha de S. Paulo, the largest-circulation daily in Brazil, and the only one delivered to my door. (Don't panic, Brazilian readers, I go through the electronic edition of Sao Paulo ’s other major daily, Estado de S. Paulo, online.)

Folha has four reporters in Washington for the Inauguration. Today, they dedicated nearly six pages to the event, including lofty talk of the prospects of the next administration, but also an article about the Rick Warren controversy, diagrams of the White House and Capitol, and a piece on President George W. Bush’s phone call with Lula (who reiterated his invitation to come fishing in Brazil).

As might be expected from those with a newspaper to publish, not all eyes in newsroom were glued to the television at 3 p.m. Brasilia time, when the speech was due to start. About three-quarters of the televisions around the rest of the newsroom were mostly tuned to CNN, the sports desk being the most apathetic. (Hey, there’s soccer to watch, you know.)

But many watched via close-captioned internet feeds, and a crowd of about 15 gathered around Cristina Fibe’s desk in the culture section of the newsroom, to take in the spectacle on her 14-inch LG television.


They watched mostly in silence, with an occasional exclamation (“What a huge crowd!”) or semi-joke (One reporter raised her hand when President Obama addressed “the people of poor nations.”) No tears were shed, nor gasps gasped, not that I expected any, though there were few moments of laughter when some poor woman CNN had focused in on realized she was emoting on national television. I’m guessing that moment played big around the world.

Afterwards, people hustled back to their desks. One woman, on the run, said she thought the speech was “too daring, too hopeful.” But Fibe, a 26 year-old copy editor, was more optimistic.

“I think everyone is rooting for Obama’” said the 26 year-old copy editor. “I appreciated the international reference he made in the speech. He said the country was open to all other nations and beliefs, and we hope that that turns out to be true.”

“We hope this is a moment of union between the United States and the rest of the world,” she continued, then caught herself getting a bit too grandiose “And when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’.”

For Luciana Coelho, the deputy editor for international news, who watched at her desk in the other end of the newsroom, it was a confluence of the two Obamas she had seen: “Obama of the campaign who offered, and promised. Obama of the transition who asked for sacrifice and responsibily. I think he managed to equilibrate between inspiring people and asking for sacrifice.”


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