Person of the Year? You, you and you

December 19, 2006|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,sun reporter

Ravens backup quarterback Kyle Boller is Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2006. So are the Jacksons: Michael, Reggie, Jesse, Randy and Samuel L. And the Bushes: George W., Kate, Reggie and Sophia.

Also named are:

The neighbor whose dog does his business on your lawn.

Your cousin, who just got laid off.

The woman down the street who brings you home-baked goodies just because.

Get the picture? For one of the most eagerly anticipated honors each year, the editors of Time this year graded everyone's experiences on the curve.

That means you are the most influential newsmaker of 2006. So is everyone else.

Time said it is honoring everyone who this year helped broaden the impact of the information age - people who not only made the news but who manipulated it, as well as spread it in many forms.

That means that if you used cell-phone cameras, text messaging, video-sharing sites, blogs, image-hosting sites or online information sites - or if you were seen on any of the above - you qualify.

The annual "Person of the Year" issue was released yesterday, and in addition to a most unusual choice, the issue has a most unusual cover: a drawing of a computer with a reflective Mylar screen. It's as if you're seeing yourself on a computer.

"It was one of the original suggestions and one of the most intriguing," Time deputy managing editor Steve Koepp said yesterday. "Some people suggested choosing `user-generated content,' but that's a mouthful.

"It's a direct appeal to people, and what we mean by `you' is a way of getting people's attention. The `Person of the Year' is a choice that should make you do a double take. You should be surprised at first, but then when you read about it and read all the stories in the issue you say, `Wow, that's right.'"

Koepp says the issue is the largest ever for a Person of the Year (200 pages), a feature which began in 1927 with the selection of Charles A. Lindbergh. This year's choice draws comparisons to 1982, when the magazine named the computer as "Machine of the Year." It named the 25-and-under generation in 1966. In 1975, it was American women.

"You" was chosen from among dozens of suggestions by Time staff members throughout the world, Koepp says. But "you" was one of the most popular: Image-sharing sites such as YouTube and Myspace and public data banks such as Wikipedia were inventions that took communication to new heights this year.

But it's the general public that fueled those sites, sometimes shedding light on stories, via blogs and video-sharing sites, that conventional media couldn't break.

"It was the blogger who ended up blowing the whistle on Mark Foley," said Koepp, referring to the Republican congressman from Florida who was forced to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct with a congressional page.

Koepp said the selection would likely have come only this year, because tools of the information age such as Myspace and YouTube had their greatest impact this year.

Before making the decision, Time asked the public for its opinion via YouTube. Time managing editor Richard Stengel appeared in a 27-second YouTube clip petitioning viewers for their choices.

"It's one of the most important franchises in journalism," Stengel said of the award, "and the definition, which goes all the way back to 1929, is the person or persons who for better or for worse have most influenced the news during the past year. We want to know what you think."

About 810,000 viewers responded with everything from themselves to YouTube, from President Bush to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

The fact that many people responded instantly by computer to the selection, even if trashing the choice, probably just affirmed the point.

"YOU hasn't actually achieved anything substantial," wrote someone identified as "Tom Lyon" of Liverpool, United Kingdom, on the BBC's blog. "YOU hasn't cured AIDS. YOU hasn't solved world hunger. YOU probably didn't vote. So what have YOU done???"

"James," a blogger on the Web site Truthdig.com, agreed.

"This is just lame," he said. "And everyone wonders why the mainstream media is going down the toilet. ..."

YouTube, the video-sharing site that Time chose as invention of the year, featured newscasts in which people chided the magazine for its decision. Among them: columnist George Will, who criticized the choice on the ABC News program This Week.

"It's about narcissism, which is why the mirror is absolutely perfect," Will said. "In 1938, Time magazine picked as its person of the year, man of the year as it was back then, Adolf Hitler, because he drove the news.

"Obviously, it seems to me, that the person of the year this year is the president of Iran [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad]. He had a very good year and a very bad year for the rest of us."

The bombastic Ahmadinejad was "the runner-up," Koepp said.

The issue includes Ahmadinejad among its "26 People Who Mattered" - essentially all the runners-up. That list also included Borat film star Sacha Baron Cohen, Bush and the grain farmer.

Dan Farber, editor and chief of business technology Web site ZDNet.com, said in a blog that Time chose to go "soft and fuzzy" rather than select from the those who led headlines with negative news.

"Surely, Time could have made more of a statement about what terrible shape the world is and who is doing something about it in its choice," he wrote.

ZDNet asked its readers, "Is `You' worthy of being Time's Person of the Year?" Of the 280 people who voted, 42 percent said "no," 33 percent said "who cares" and 25 percent said "yes."

A "Bill Dennis" on an Illinois blog, Illinoize (capitalfax.blogspot.com), recalled Time's puzzling choice of the computer as the award-winner in 1982 and added, "I suppose it was time to get around to honoring the people who use them. Next year's winner? Everyone on Earth who breathes oxygen."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.