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Always a Bridesmaid…

December 19th, 2007

So Al Gore’s come in second. Again. He might’ve been a big winner at the Oscars, but as far as TIME magazine’s concerned, he’s no Vladmir Putin.

If you haven’t seen the cover of this week’s TIME, FYI, Putin’s been named the magazine’s 80th annual “Person of the Year,” much to the dismay of message boarders on MSN.com and across the web (one poster chastised the magazine for choosing a “former KGB thug” like Putin).

The field was certainly a competitive one this year. Consider the contenders:
- J.K. Rowling, who closed the book on a miniature wizard credited for conjuring up a resurrection of reading among adolescents
- Steve Jobs, whose iPhone made mile-long lines and headlines around the world (we hear John Street spearheaded his own letter-writing campaign on this one)
- Hilary Clinton, the first woman who might actually have a shot at the title (President, that is)
- Barack Obama, the first African-American who might actually have a shot at the title

Angelina Jolie, Condoleezza Rice, George W., even Stephen Colbert. The list of names thrown around went on and on.

TIME insists its POY choice is always determined by assessment of power, not popular vote, explaining the selection of Putin in a logical, albeit defensive article in the feature. According to the article:

“TIME’s Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world—for better or for worse.”

Okay, fine. So you’ve presented the facts as you see them, TIME, and while I commend you for your resolve, I have to call bull on this one. We let you slip by with last year’s stunt (when “YOU” were the Person of the Year – see “No Applause Necessary”), but now you’re just trying to get attention by picking someone you know will cause an even bigger uproar.

I didn’t vote for Al Gore in 2000. In fact, he really annoys me. And though he may have exaggerated a bit about his role in Internet development [READ: he was a big fat liar], we’ve all got to admit he’s a bona fide environmentalist. He didn’t discover global warming, but he’s revived an awareness of environmentalism to remarkable heights worthy of recognition. He won a Nobel Prize. He’s influenced national and international policies. He got NBC to do a “Green Week,” for God’s sake. If that doesn’t make him Person of the Year, I don’t know what does.

But this isn’t about debating over who’s most worthy; it’s about questioning TIME’s journalistic integrity. Yes, I said it. I think the magazine is sacrificing integrity for the sake of some publicity.

You see, everyone knows that controversy begets buzz. I’m disappointed in TIME’s choice, and for that reason, I’ll probably read every article about it. And I think that’s exactly what TIME wants. So, Putin is a business choice, not an editorial choice. Sure, the publishing industry is tough, but the line between sales and editorial should never be crossed — regardless of the bottom line impact.

So in this case, I must admit, Gore’s got a right to cry “hanging chad.”

Posted Under: Media & Journalism
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