In just the first three weeks after the November 2008 election of US President Barack Obama, ‘perhaps as much as $200 million’ was spent on commemorative products, according to New York Times media columnist Stuart Elliott (2008, 2009), who was among the first to use the term ‘Obamabilia’ to describe these items. This may seem unsurprising in an American culture full of commercial nostalgia, where ‘collectibles’ are produced for everything from sports victories to celebrity deaths. What was newer this time was the centrality of journalistic media — and, in particular, the most elite American news organizations — in the production and marketing of Obama commemorative products. Of course, as many commentators have noted, these products were meant to yield ancillary revenue and to ‘extend the brand’. Yet their content reveals that they were meant to do something more as well. Through words and pictures, this wave of commemorative journalism repeatedly reaffirmed the authority and value of elite, ‘old media’ at a moment when those institutions appeared to be in crisis.
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- Obamabilia and the Historic Moment: Institutional Authority and ‘Deeply Consequential Memory’ in Keepsake Journalism
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