Last week Time Magazine announced its annual Person of the Year, reminding all of us that 1) they still do that and 2) Time Magazine still exists.
The winner (I guess?) this year was “The Silence Breakers,” recognizing the many people who have come forward with allegations of abuse and/or harassment at the hands of power moguls in Hollywood, politics, and other institutions. The scope of this issue becomes more shocking every day and media institutions are helping shed a spotlight on an issue that they’d previously only cared about when it affected conservative religious institutions.
Note that Time did not recognize Corey Feldman, who has been the trumpet-sounder on this issue for years and years …
… nor did they recognize any of Bill Clinton’s victims – women the mainstream media have long ignored. It’s 25 years after many of us learned about his horrible behavior, but his reckoning is coming.
While the salience of the Silence Breakers for 2017 is irrefutable, Time’s year-end tradition usually comes off as weird. This wasn’t a person, this was a large group of people, and more broadly speaking this is an issue. (Side note: I appreciate that Time invented their own term, “Silence Breakers,” instead of chasing the #MeToo hashtag.)
Time’s tradition goes all the way back to 1927, first recognizing Charles Lindbergh for flying across the Atlantic. But it seems like more and more like the folks at Time aren’t selecting a person –it’s groups of people, a movement, or an issue. Increasingly it seems like they’re just bored with the idea of highlighting one individual.
In 2014, it was Ebola fighters. In 2011, it was The Protester (Tea Party, Arab Spring, etc.). In 2005, it was Good Samaritans (Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Bono – who will save the world, no matter how many magazine covers he has to appear on to do it). In 2003, it was The American Soldier. In 2002, it was The Whistleblowers (Enron and such).
In 2006, it was the eyeroll-inducing “You,” representing Web 2.0 content creators back before social media when people still used terms like Web 2.0 and the idea of everyone being able to create content seemed like a good idea.
Moreover, Time always – and I mean always – recognizes the US president as the Person of the Year. Trump last year, Obama in 2012 and 2008, Bush in 2004 and 2000, Clinton in 1998 and 1992, etc. (Hey Time, congratulations on telling everyone what they already know: the president is important!)
So if you look at the Person of the Year for the 21st Century, the have only awarded it to a non-US president person just six times.
I understand that media outlets enjoying tying a ribbon on the year come December, but there is a better way to do it. It seems like they should switch to the top story of the year. That frees them up to find something more creative and side-steps the inevitable cries about diversity issues.
We focus on individuals because that’s how we tell stories, but the reality is that the movements that shape are world are influenced by lots of people not just one. Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic, yes, but he had teams on both continents helping him. It’s time for Time to drop the Person of the Year.
Unless they want to give it to me in 2018.