Time is too politically correct to crown a worthy ‘Person of the Year’

Time is too politically correct to crown a worthy ‘Person of the Year’
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Despite the general decline of the print industry, Time's "Person of the Year" is always a big deal leading up the annual December announcement, which happens on Wednesday. 

Sometimes the choice is easy (President Trump stunningly winning the 2016 election to take last year's award). Sometimes the choice is hard (Osama Bin Laden not "winning" in 2001 despite the 9/11 attacks that changed the world forever, for example). But the choice invariably stirs plenty of controversy.  

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And it's also a choice made increasingly seemingly for business reasons, because the person who ends up on that cover could make a substantial difference on the purchase front.

 

So why should Bin Laden, the late leader of Al Qaeda responsible murdering 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, have won 16 years ago? Folks outside the bubble rarely understand what Time's criteria is, so let's provide the official definition per Time's FAQ page: 

"The criterion is the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year," it reads.

In terms of impact, even the despicable Bin Laden was the only choice despite how un-PC the choice would been. Again, this isn't a popularity contest.


A look back at past winners shows the publication's fearlessness in following said criteria to the letter: Hitler has won. So has Stalin. And Ruhollah Khomeini after Americans were taken hostage in Iran in 1979. 

In other words, the award used to not go to "best" person of the year or the most altruistic or heroic. Simple question: Who impacted news and our lives the most?

But somewhere along the way, Time lost its spine. It passed on Bin Laden likely out of fear of backlash, choosing a worthy Rudy Giuliani instead. It began choosing social justice groups more, including "the Protestor" in 2011 (Occupy Wall Street), "You" in 2006 (for individual content creators on the web), "Good Samaritans" in 2005 (Bono and, Bill and Melinda Gates) and "The Whistleblowers" at Enron in 2002. Weak sauce.

Which brings us to this year's unintentionally hilarious set of Time finalists. Ask yourself this: Did Colin Kaepernick or Robert Mueller or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman really affect the news or your life the most? Mueller potentially could in 2018 depending on what his special council turns up, but Kaepernick? If he wins, it's a business decision and nothing more based on, again, Time's own criteria.

One candidate curiously missing from a short list — that also rightly includes President Trump, who has affected news more this year than anyone ever for better or worse, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose company totally changed the way we shop, — is Vladimir Putin.

Whatever your perspective is on Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, know this: The former Soviet Union achieved its goal of sowing doubt in our ability to hold free and fair elections. It’s not limited to just talking about possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials, which has yet to be remotely proven. Don’t forget about Russia operatives working with former British MI-6 agent Christopher Steele to provide the DNC information damaging to Trump, ala the infamous and largely debunked dossier.

For those reasons, Putin deserves to be on this list. And given the media obsession with all things Russia per the overwhelming amount of news coverage it received in 2017, one would think Time, which gave the award to Mikail Gorbachev twice in the span of three years (1987 and 1989), would have thrown him into the list of finalists instead of, say, "the Dreamers." 

So who will win? Likely the #MeToo movement given the kind of names that have gone down or have seen serious damage to their careers this year amid sexual harassment allegations: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota EMILY’s List president: Franken did 'right thing for Minnesota' Dem pledges to ask all court nominees about sexual harassment history under oath MORE, John ConyersJohn James ConyersWoman accuses New York state senator of sexual misconduct Dissatisfaction with position of women in US hits new high Republicans on the run: Retirements could be trouble for Trump and party MORE, Louis C.K., Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Thrush, Charlie Rose, Hamilton Fish, Mark Halperin and Matt Lauer. Some big name in politics, entertainment, media or tech seemingly is accused on a daily basis. 

The problem with handing it to a hashtag is that it feels inadequate, too generalized. To that end I would add investigative reporter Ronan Farrow to the list instead given his dogged pursuit of the Weinstein story after NBC told him he didn't have enough to go to air with (despite an NYPD audio sting tape of Weinstein and several accusers in interviews, according to Farrow).

Time hands out its annual award on "The Today Show" tomorrow. Hopefully, it does the right thing and follows its own criteria. And doesn't hand it to the most politically correct or someone who will simply sell the most magazines.

Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.