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Denver Magazine's Interview With the Obamas

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Denver magazine has been making news in pages other than its own of late due largely to the departure (under disputed circumstances) of editor Dahlia Weinstein who had earlier left a similar post at another glossy, Shine. (This last switch is at the center of a November 2007 Message column, while a blog about Shine's subsequent demise can be accessed here). So it was obviously a relief for founder/publisher Michael Ledwitz to be able to flip the script and announce that his mag had landed an exclusive interview with Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, in advance of the Democratic National Convention.

That Denver scored this coup likely has everything to do with its moniker. Ledwitz, who'd previously called Miami home, decided to launch a magazine in the Mile High city in part because he discovered that the "Denver" handle and the web domain were both available. Still, his creation is a newcomer on the local magazine scene, and it remains in the shadow of 5280, which has a much lengthier legacy and a significantly bigger readership -- not that Obama's handlers likely realized that. Betcha they assumed Denver was the big kahuna here, just as Los Angeles magazine is in Los Angeles, Chicago magazine is in Chicago, etc.

What's in a name? In this case, a lot. But the same can't be said of the ballyhooed interview with the Obamas.

"He Said, She Said" is among the least revealing pieces about the couple imaginable. Writer Jay Daignault asked each of them the same series of lighter-than-helium questions, which are reproduced almost identically, leading to the suspicion that the exchange took place via e-mail rather than in person or over the phone. (No specifics are provided.) Here's one typically banal inquiry and the Obamas' separate responses:

DM: Everyone sees you as a potential Commander-in-Chief, but you’re a husband and partner, too. We know that women have their faults -- care to share one annoying thing that Michelle does on -- or off -- the campaign trail?

Sen. Obama: Michelle has no faults and does nothing annoying. It took me 15 years to understand that, but I am absolutely clear about it now...

DM: Everyone sees you as the future first lady, but you’re a wife and partner, too. We all know that men have their faults — what is the most annoying thing that Barack does on -- or off -- the campaign trail?

MO: When he gets home from being on the road, he hangs his jackets on the bedroom door, so when I go to close the door, I can’t, because there are his clothes -- right there on the door!

The rest of the piece falls just as short of fascinating. Denver didn't have to interrogate the Obamas about troop levels and unemployment statistics -- the celebrity approach is in keeping with the mag's focus. But the blandness of the questions makes "He Said, She Said" a missed opportunity from a qualitative standpoint, though still a success when it comes to public relations. -- Michael Roberts

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