Are We Really at Home With the Obamas?

Essence magazine didn’t quite convey its intended message when it chose the title for the cover story of the September 2008 issue. “At Home With the Obama Family” is catchy, but after reading the article, the headline is misleading.

When a person first picks up the magazine off the newsstand, she is going to think that there’s going to be an in-depth analysis of the family. Such as a schedule of chores in the Obama’s household, a typical dinner for the Obamas, or how they function as a family outside of the political arena.

 As a publication geared toward African-Americans, Essence should have placed more cultural weight on the story. Revealing barriers or issues the family has faced due to skin color would have been relevant. Whereas, bridging the gap between the political family and the typical Essence reader.

Although the article was full of substantial information, it wasn’t what the headline promised. In fact, an article in the August 8, 2008 issue of People magazine carried similar information.  The headline for that cover story was “The Obamas at Home.” Which is almost identical to the Essence headline “At Home With the Obama Family.”

Essence was the first black media outlet to have the opportunity to get personal with the Obamas.  So why didn’t it do more?  There are countless angles that would have engaged the African-American community while still being relevant.  Instead, it reiterated much of what has already been reported.

The Obama family may be the first African-American family to occupy the White House. That within itself should be enough for Essence to write a book. Essence needed to link the similarities between the Obamas’ everyday lives and the lives of the Essence reader.  Whatever they might be, the reader should have walked away from the article knowing them, and feeling a connection to the Obama family.

Essence promised an intimate piece.  It promised its readers to take them for a dive in the deep end of the Obama family pool.  Instead, it only allowed them to get their toes wet. Overall, Essence delivered a political platform that could have been written by any other publication.

-Tiffany Alleyne


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