'Time Person of the Year' Likely to Be, Well, a Person

Panel Discusses Possible Choices, Including You, the Consumer

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Next month, Time magazine may pick a specific person to be its Person of the Year -- as opposed to "The American Soldier" in 2003, for example, or "Endangered Earth" in 1999.
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Photo: Joseph Moran

'Time' magazine's Person of the Year panelists and spectators include (left to right) Tom DeLay, former House Majority Leader; Edward McCarrick, president and worldwide publisher, Time Group; Richard Stengel, managing editor, 'Time'; Nancy Wiese, director-worldwide brand advertising, Xerox; Mayor Cory A. Booker, Newark, N.J.; and Ed Lewis, founder-chairman, 'Essence' magazine. Click to see larger photo.



"I personally like it when a person is Person of the Year," said Managing Editor Richard Stengel, speaking to a luncheon crowd that came to the Time & Life Building yesterday to see a panel talk about possible contenders.

It had to be you
Mr. Stengel described his preference even after his panelists reeled off plenty of pretty abstract suggestions, so it's pretty safe to say we can write off "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams' big idea: "You," a reference to rising user-created content, one-to-one marketing, wiki collaboration, YouTube and consumer control.

For the record, Mr. Williams said all that stuff is taking us the wrong way. "We are choosing cat videos!" he complained.

Other likely scratches included "All of Us," floated by actor-director Emilio Estevez; "The American Voter," nominated by Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory A. Booker; "The Anonymous Philanthropist," courtesy of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; and "Reality," an idea from Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington.

D.C. contenders
But the brainstorming did turn up some candidates with Social Security numbers, such as President George W. Bush; Nancy Pelosi, presumably the next Speaker of the House; and Congressman Jack Murtha, the Vietnam veteran who shifted the Iraq debate by calling for troop withdrawal despite his hawkish background.

In the case of folks from outside the U.S., it helped to make Americans nervous. The list of foreign nominees included North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il; Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah; and Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Newark endorses 'Time'
Time itself got a big endorsement from all this when Mr. Booker said he didn't want Mr. Ahmadinejad to get the nod, because he didn't want to see such a bad guy "on the cover of the most important magazine in the world."

Ms. Huffington retorted, "If it was Newsweek it would be OK?"

The formal decision will come in December, after Time staffers start working on several possibilities in case any of them gets picked -- and after the magazine has milked the speculation for the maximum public relations value.
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