Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Time Picks The 100 Most Influential People

It's been about a year since my rant over Time's picks for the most influential people of 2006. You can read it here.

Once again, Time gamely tries to convince me that they know the 100 people who shape MY world. And, once again, I have a bone to pick with them. But first, I want to mention an interesting article in the May 13th edition of the Christian Science Monitor. Here's a quote talking about Time:

A few months ago, the venerable newsmagazine announced that it will cut the number of paying readers that it guarantees to advertisers from 4 million to 3.25 million. Publicly, at least, Time doesn't care if 750,000 subscribers throw all those pesky renewal notices in the trash.

On the other hand, Time is reaching out to its most loyal readers through a beefed-up website, a new arrival date on newsstands, and a stable of spotlighted writers who fill its pages with commentary instead of traditional news reporting.

Why the extreme makeover? While the magazine industry is doing well as a whole, Time and its rival newsweeklies are struggling to stay afloat. Gutted by staff cuts and suffering from sluggish circulation, they're trying to figure out how to avoid the grim future facing the newspaper industry.

Time's solution is to adopt the philosophy that's ruled the wider magazine industry for years: Don't try to please all readers all of the time. Instead, just make some readers happy most of the time.

You can read the entire article here.

In thinking about the above quote, I realized that Time is hedging its bets in their choices for the 100 people that shape the world. While it includes some very righteous choices, it also includes a sprinkling of celebrities sure to please the readers of People magazine.

As we did last year, let's start with the Artists and Entertainers. Twenty-two people are listed under that category. Let's look at the demographics, shall we?

Eighteen white (82%), three black (14%), and one Hispanic (4%). Thirteen male and nine female. Twelve (more than half) are involved in the television or movie industry as stars, producers or directors. Six musicians, two writers, two in the clothing industry (designer and model). Not a single visual artist. No painter, no sculptor, no architect.

But here's the best part: the picks.

Kate Moss. Yes, that undernourished waif who has appeared on over 300 magazine covers as well as some newspapers (where she was pictured doing coke). Yeah, that's influential on a cosmic scale. The reason Time gives for her inclusion: "Her kind of prolonged cool takes not just hard work and great bones, but also an infallible chic-tracking system." Sweet mercy.

But I can top that. Another of the entertainers who shape my world: Justin Timberlake. Time's justification: "It's as if Justin had been born 26 years ago to deliver music to the world."

I kid you not.

Words fail.

Let's move on to the Heroes and Pioneers before I commit hara-kiri with a rusty spoon.

Demographics first. Nineteen total. Eleven white (58%), five black (26%) and three Asians (16%). Thirteen men and six females.

This is a little bit of a funky category because Scientists and Thinkers have their own category. So you don't have any scientist or philosopher pioneers here. What you do have are five heroes: an American military officer; the man who threw himself over another man on the New York subway tracks; two people (Michael J. Fox and Elizabeth Edwards) who are handling progressive, fatal diseases; and a man sent to Syria by the U.S. government to be tortured as a potential terrorist.

There are also four obligatory sports heroes, plus a crusader against tobacco use, a Chinese blogger, a man documenting the genocide of Cambodians and an Egyptian urging Muslims to live in peace with the west.

Oh, by the way, Tyra Banks has been promoted from her standing as an Artist and Entertainer in 2006 to a Hero and Pioneer in 2007. The reason: Her willingness to "speak out to girls and young women about embracing their bodies in all sizes."

I look forward to seeing her listed as a Scientist and Thinker next year.

If you want to read the whole 2007 list, go here.

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