Elon junior enjoyed ‘front-row seat to history’ on Inauguration Day
As a production assistant on NBC News’ inaugural team, journalism major Zach Hrinuk ’18 spent a week working on location in Washington, D.C., assisting with the network’s coverage across all of its media platforms.
While he arrived in Washington, D.C., five days before Inauguration Day to assist with coverage of the nation’s transition of presidential power, Zach Hrinuk’s preparation for his weeklong assignment as an NBC News production assistant began months earlier.
The Elon University journalism major spent last summer interning at the “TODAY Show,” but even then he already had an eye toward January. An avid follower of politics, Hrinuk implored an NBC producer more than six months ago to keep him in mind when the network compiled its production staff for the new president’s swearing in.
“NBC encourages its interns to network within the company, and I really wanted to be involved in the inauguration,” said Hrinuk, a member of Elon Local News. “I asked an inauguration producer if she would keep me on her radar. I sent my resume and made sure I kept in touch.”
Hrinuk, a self-described diligent networker, did just that, periodically reaching out to his NBC News contacts. By October he was informed he was under consideration and in late December he received official word that he’d work the network’s coverage. “It was all about being in touch and networking with the producer,” he said. “Persistence paid off.”
As a production assistant, the Springfield, New Jersey, native helped on-site producers, crewmembers and correspondents with various logistics, including standing in for reporters during rehearsals and camera blocking at different locations. “I was there to help make sure everything was in order when we went on air,” he said.
Inauguration Day began for Hrinuk before 4 a.m. as he and the NBC team prepped for that morning’s “TODAY Show” three hours later. Between the live morning show, MSNBC correspondent hits and NBC’s network coverage with Lester Holt beginning at 10 a.m., the day was a whirlwind for Hrinuk and the crew. “We were providing coverage across all platforms of the network, not just for one show,” he said.
Hrinuk’s NBC team was based at the White House and Lafayette Square, responsible for “everything and anything around the park,” he said. This included the morning’s church service, inaugural parade and the presidential motorcade to and from the White House.
“It was surreal to be just a few feet away from the motorcade, with all of the nation’s decision makers right in front of me,” he said. “You see these people on TV for years, you see them out campaigning, but to see them in person, with the White House as the backdrop, it brought chills.”
During a day filled with choreographed events, it was an unscripted moment that impacted Hrinuk the most. As he exited a production trailer, he could hear the “whooshing” of a helicopter directly overhead.
“I heard this noise and there was President Obama’s helicopter right above us, doing his final circle over the White House on his departure,” Hrinuk recalled. “That’s the moment of the transition of power right there, right in front of us. It was great to see it up close. Regardless of any political stances, this day was historic, and I had a front-row seat to history. I was able to see our country’s transition of power firsthand.”
While Inauguration Day is in his rearview mirror, Hrinuk explained politics is still weighing on his mind. This past fall, he took a course titled “Race for the White House” with Assistant Professor of Political Science Carrie Eaves. Under Eaves' direction, Hrinuk is expanding on the course’s subject matter, investigating presidential transitions and the first hundred days of a presidency.
“I’m looking forward to tying in all of my inauguration experience into the broader part of my research,” he said. “I wouldn’t consider myself a research person, but I’m interested in the topic.”