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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Time is on their side

Around the Freeman newsroom, we always like to guess who Time magazine will pick in December as its annual Man/Woman of the Year. It’s a little early yet, I know, but the chatter has begun already.

Time's policy used to be to select the person who had the most influence on the news that year, and there was a period when the editors weren’t afraid to pick bad guys – Hitler in 1938, Stalin in 1939 and 1942, the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, for example. But lately, the magazine has gone for safer, feel-good choices (Rudy Giuliani in 2001 instead of Osama bin Laden or the more generic “The Terrorist”); do-gooders who deserved to be lauded but who didn’t really influence the news (Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono in 2005); and totally off-the-wall abstractions, like the infamous “You” in 2006 (illustrated with a mirror on the magazine’s cover).

It’s worth noting, though, that even before Time shied away from picking mass murderers and other miscreants, it developed a nasty habit of being unable to make the obvious choice. In 1963, Time’s editors ignored JFK and/or Lee Harvey Oswald and went with Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968, when the choice should have been the tragically assassinated King (or Bobby Kennedy or Richard Nixon), the honor went to Apollo 8 astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and William Anders. In 1969, the year of the first lunar landing, moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were passed over in favor “The Middle Americans.” And in 1974, the year the Watergate scandal peaked and the United States endured its first presidential resignation, the geniuses at Time bypassed Nixon or anyone connected to his downfall in favor of – wait for it now – King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

So who the 2007 honoree(s) will be is anybody’s guess.

If the magazine wants to play it straight, it could go with Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki, U.S. war commander Gen. David Patraeus, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to serve as speaker of the House.

If the editors want to do the group thing, they could opt for the stuck-in-neutral U.S. Congress, the eight U.S. attorneys whose firings led to Gonzales’ departure, the key players in the CIA leak scandal or every idiot who appeared on a brainless TV competition show.

On a more somber note, they could honor the memories of those who died at Virginia Tech on April 16 or in the Minneapolis bridge collapse on Aug. 1.

If Time's editors want to go the business route, they could pick Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate who just bought the Dow Jones Co. and its flagship newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke or the group “subprime mortgage lenders” are other possibilities.

Al Gore would be a good choice, too, for raising awareness about global warming.

Barry Bonds is the unfortunate obvious pick from the sports world. But please, Time, if you opt for the world’s most notorious cheater, at least have the sense to doctor your cover photo of him by replacing the baseball bat in his hand with a large syringe.

The magazine could pick the collective Celebrity Bad Girls, and bestow the dubious honor jointly on Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith, with loudmouth Rosie O’Donnell thrown in for good measure. (How sad is it that this could actually happen?) There also is Don Imus to consider.

It could be a “Gadgets of the Year” cover, with nods to the iPhone, the iPod, the Wii game console and various other wonders of technology.

Or maybe Time will just choose itself for the distinction. After all, it picked everyone else in the world last time around.

Personally, I’m pulling for Leona Helmsley’s $12 million dog, Trouble, if only so the magazine can temporarily change the name of the honor to “Rich Bitch of the Year.”

A list of previous winners can be viewed at of the Year



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