Person of the Year, Eh?
I won’t deny that there were and are legitimate reasons to have named Barack Obama as Time’s Person of the Year. Once again, he proved himself to be a formidable political figure, and given that he is the first Democratic president since Roosevelt to have won re-election with 50%-plus of the vote, a case can certainly be made for the proposition that he is the most consequential figure of the year.
That having been written, it’s important to note that the choice was something of a cop-out and Time could have come up with a more original selection; one that could have sparked some serious and meaningful conversation amongst all of us. David Graham explains:
Obama’s selection isn’t just boring. It’s a big missed opportunity. Just look at the other finalists —especially Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen blogger shot in the head by the Taliban for her advocacy for women’s rights. As manufactured as the hoopla is, it could at least have been directed toward a worthy cause, one that faded far too quickly from the headlines after her October attack, overwhelmed by (yep) the presidential election and other news.
Another finalist was Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who could shape the direction of the Middle East in indelible ways. A third was Fabiola Gianotti, who, as a lead researcher on the Higgs Boson, contributed to a huge leap in scientific understanding. (There’s not much defense for their fellow finalist Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, who’s hardly lacking for adulatory magazine covers and hasn’t had that much of a banner year anyway.)
Obama Mark II is the latest in a pattern of lackluster choices. Is anyone out there not sick of people ironically listing “Time Person of the Year, 2006” in Twitter bios, a reference to the gimmicky selection of “You” that year? Didn’t think so. The 2011 Person of the Year, another cop-out, was “The Protestor,” though that at least pointed to a major news trend across the world that year.
And here’s an appalling fact: Though the name was changed from “Man of the Year” to “Person of the Year” in 1999, not since 1987 has Time featured an individual woman as the Person of the Year, as BuzzFeed notes. That year it was Corazon Aquino, who led the push to topple Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and became president of the Philippines. (In 2002, the magazine choose three women for a cover on “The Whistleblowers” at Worldcom, the FBI, and Enron.)
Incidentally, in the event that Big Media outlets are still wondering why they are failing, they might want to consider that a startling lack of freshness and originality in their thinking might be the problem.