For All You've Done

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For KCRW, this is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun with 'Minding the Media.'

Remember the "me" generation? When everything was narcissism? Well, now it's about you. No. Wait. It's still about me.

Oh, I don't know. Time magazine has got me stumped.

Its latest Person of the Year, announced over the weekend, is "You."
By which they mean me and you.
Got that?

I didn't think so.

Time tried to explain. On CNN, which is also owned by Time Warner, a chirpy Soledad O'Brien hosted an hour-long program dedicated to the ponderings of the magazine's staff as to who, good or bad, the ideal Person of the Year might be.

A strong candidate was Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who enjoys thumbing his nose at George W. Bush's warnings about nuclear no-nos and seems to have trouble understanding what the Holocaust was.

Others voted for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the diminutive dictator with the blow-dried hair who also ignored Bush on this pesky question of nuclear weapons.

A few thought it should be former Secretary of State James Baker, some of whose recommendations on Iraq are apparently being ignored by Bush.

Then there was talk of naming the trio of Bush, Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney for all they've done in Iraq, including ignoring warnings that Saddam Hussein no longer had weapons of mass destruction.

Another suggestion was the guys who founded YouTube, who haven't ignored anybody.

So, forget all those weighty global issues. In the end, the magazine put a mirror on the cover of its Person of the Year issue because, managing editor Rick Stengel said, "it literally reflects the idea that you, not us, are transforming the information age."

The choice was inspired by user-generated Web sites in which anybody (that means you) can have a hand in the action, like YouTube, which attracts about 100 million views a day, and MySpace, which has more than 130 million users.
That's a lot of you's.

Lev Grossman, Time's technology writer, explained that the honor was given to the collective "you" for "seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy," which, Grossman suggested, "will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes."
Or something.

Stengel, the managing editor, was clearer: These days, "a mother in Baghdad with a videophone can let you see a roadside bombing or a patron in a nightclub can show you a racist rant by a famous comedian."

On CNN, when Soledad O'Brien was told the choice was "You," she blurted out, "Literally, me?!"

O'Brien seemed particularly entranced by the little mirror on the cover, prompting Jon Stewart last night on The Daily Show  to say, "Apparently she thinks the magazine has a pretty lady trapped inside it."

Marek Fuchs, in, accused Time of "pandering" to the Web-surfing masses in its choice of Person of the Year, "apparently for all the videos of your backflipping cat you post on YouTube."

Ross Fadner, on, wrote that "the world's many problems (and those addressing them) deserve far more attention than, well, us."

On The Huffington Post, screenwriter Nora Ephron wrote that it's obvious the world is "in the midst of a total meltdown, that we have the worst president in current history, that the elation of the recent election has passed to a numbing foreboding that nothing is going to change and that innocent people will continue to die in this hateful, violent episode we've unleashed."

Last year, Time's Person of the Year was actually three people: Bill and Melinda Gates, and Bono.

Ephron thought they were "a brilliant choice" that made her "view the world in a different way, as smart, brave, editorial selections sometimes do."

This time, she said, "I can't help thinking a mistake has been made."

This is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun, 'Minding the Media' on KCRW.



Nick Madigan