Saturday, December 16, 2006

Time jumps the shark
For the first five decades or so, Time Magazine's "Man of the Year" issue was a meaningful exercise in taking stock of the year. The object was to name the one individual who most shaped the year, for better or worse. Sometimes the effort was complicated by the fact that the most significant happening of the year might not have been creditable to a single individual. Some years the greatest impact was made by a trend maturing or a natural catastrophe, but still the editors of Time managed to find an outstanding individual and frame an intelligent essay around their significance.

Their fist lame cop-out came in 1966 when they named the "Younger Generation." Since then, they've had a half dozen of these concept people of the year covers. At some point, they seem to have decided every American president should get at least one cover, whether they deserve it or not. In 2001, they gave it Rudy Giuliani, even though, by any measure, Osama bin Laden had a greater effect than almost anyone. Giuliani made Americans feel better for a few days or weeks in response to bin Laden while bin Laden's attack changed the direction of global affairs more abruptly than any event since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This week they announce that the cover will be awarded to everyone. That's right, you, me, some teenager in Bangalore, and a lady who works in the Coca Cola bottling plant outside Buenos Aires. The cover will have a little mirror so every shopper who sees it will stop and say "it's me!"

If the Time editors no longer have the guts to put an unpopular person on the cover or the intellectual insight to really analyze the year and make an argument about what made it tick, then maybe they should retire the venerable institution. Otherwise, what can we look forward to next year, puppies? Please, put it out of our misery.

August J. Pollock comments on the utter lameness of it all.

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