Rogers assured viewers that the Obamas are “real people.” She said that the first lady “maybe likes food a little bit more” and the president “would be satisfied just to have a salad and a boiled egg.”

Details of the Obamas’ food choices cater more transparently to the press and public’s First-Family-voyeurism impulses, but the two interviews—with Rogers and with Kelleher—have something of the same effect: they help to refine Obama’s public image, which to some extent also helps him to do his job. (Or as the LAT story notes, “Analysts believe that the Obamas’ image management has so far contributed to the president’s standing as he pushes an ambitious agenda.”)

Now, every White House engages in this sort of image management. It doesn’t mean that the mailman story isn’t valid; in fact, it’s heartwarming and rather well written. But readers and reporters ought to recognize that it is as much an example of image building as was the sit-down interview with Desiree Rogers about the “real people” Obamas. It could, in other words, perhaps afford to be a little more aware of being a cog in the White House’s smooth public relations wheel, and a little less wide-eyed about the president’s looped initials. Everything in Washington is done for a political end, and even reporting on the White House mailman needs to make a concession to that fact.

Jane Kim is a writer in New York.