Like a reality show set on the glorified soundstage at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the details of one family’s life have captivated the country — if not the world — making the Obamas seem within reach, an ordinary family that just happens to be living an extraordinary existence.
But these glimpses into the Obama household are far from spontaneous. Instead, they are part of a careful strategy that has helped bolster the new president’s popularity and political clout — even as he promotes some economic policies, such as bailouts for banks and automakers, that lack broad appeal.
The White House, eager to cultivate an image-making media machinery that thrives on personality, has invited coverage from such outlets as television’s “Access Hollywood” and “Extra.” Aides dole out exclusives accordingly, acutely aware of the shelf life for cover stories in glamour and celebrity magazines.
Administration officials have even weighed the economics of paparazzi photography, strategically releasing images of the family to diminish the monetary value of unauthorized pictures and give the White House control over how the family is portrayed. In return for access, celebrity news outlets must refuse to publish unauthorized pictures — or risk being cut off by the White House.