Book Review: President Obama Election 2008: Collection of Newspaper Front Pages by the Poynter Institute (2008)

January 19th, 2009 11:59 pm by Kelly Garbato

One for the History Books

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

Let me preface my review of PRESIDENT OBAMA: ELECTION 2008 (A COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER FRONT PAGES SELECTED BY THE POYNTER INSTITUTE) with a disclosure: I’m not a huge Obama fan. Not because I think he’s a secret Muslim(n), or because I’m afraid that he’ll turn America socialist and make all the heteros gay marry. On the contrary – I am way left of Obama on most issues. I voted for Kucinich in the primaries, McKinney/Clemente in the general election. While I’m relieved that Obama/Biden triumphed over McCain/Palin, I don’t have any delusions that President Obama will usher in a new era of American prosperity, or that he’s really an uber-progressive guy at heart. My review, then, is purely nonpartisan – after all, I’m reviewing an art/photography book, not a politician, right?

All that said, I requested a review copy of PRESIDENT OBAMA through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program because the 2008 elections were truly historic, whatever your political affiliations. I thought the book would make a nice keepsake, at best. At worst, I figured could regift it to my conservative, gun-loving father as a gag gift. Turns out, I think I’ll keep my copy of PRESIDENT OBAMA. It’s a gorgeous, full-color book, featuring 78 post-election day newspaper front pages from around the globe. The covers are arranged alphabetically, with local American newspapers grouped first (ordered by state; 42 states are represented), followed by national and then international papers. Placed inconspicuously beside each front page is a brief block of text explaining the paper and why it was chosen.

Many of the local American front pages follow the same format, with large, election-night photos of the Obama family (or portraits of Barack Obama) placed front and center. Here, it’s interesting to note how similar many of the headlines are; most feature some variation on the “hope,” “change,” or “yes we can” campaign slogans. Some of the media border eerily on idol worship, depicting Obama’s face on money or working his campaign logo (the red, white and blue “O”) into the text of their headlines. Collectively, the local media appears to have succumbed, more or less, to the cult of personality surrounding Obama: Welcome to Obamanation! Certainly, November 4, 2008 was a historic point in American history; sitting at home, I cried along with much of America as I watched the returns come in. Still, Obama’s staff couldn’t have created more laudatory coverage if they tried. After eight years of capitulation to Bush, I can only hope that this isn’t indicative of the sort of “hard-hitting” reporting we can expect from the mainstream media in the next four years.

The international front pages offer a bit more diversity; Vienna’s DIE PRESSE, for example, features a photo of Obama surrounded by smaller pictures of local reaction to the election results, while the word “change” – translated into 24 languages – steals the cover of Belgium’s DE MORGEN. In the post-Bush world, it’s quite refreshing to see global citizens celebrating American events, instead of protesting them!

I guess my only complaint is that the Poynter Institute chose not to include any conservative / right-of-center news media in this volume. Granted, dissenting or negative coverage wouldn’t exactly jibe with the laudatory tone of this volume, but still – this was a divisive and polarized election season (what with all the scare-mongering, race baiting, appeals to misogyny and cries of “terra-ist!”), and a few token voices of resistance might make the collection more complete – and historically accurate. While most November 5th coverage was no doubt respectful (if not outright celebratory), the editors did choose to include a few liberal alterna-weeklies – so methinks they could have unearthed one or two unhappy conservative rags, too.

Overall, PRESIDENT OBAMA makes for a nice coffee table book – just make sure you go all out and purchase the hardcover edition. My paperback was a tad bent when it arrived. :(

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

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