NEW YORK - It was hard to miss the moment on television when Barack Obama lifted his right hand to take the oath of office as the nation's 44th president.
The transfer of power was everywhere you'd expect, on the CNNs and ABCs of the TV world. But ESPN also interrupted its sports highlights to show it. MTV cut away from self-obsessed "Real World" roommates. Business networks CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox telecast it, although the stock market tickers stayed on the screen. BET and TV One celebrated the arrival of a black president, and BBC America took its focus off Britain.
Not since the September 2001 terrorist attacks have so many television networks shown such a unity of purpose, this time for a moment of hope.
The networks bore witness both to a history-making event and a uniquely American ritual, with coverage that was most effective when anchors and commentators faded to the background.