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New Media Helps 'Person of the Year' Survive

Dec 18, 2013

It's a year-end tradition that appears to not only be surviving -- but thriving in the new media

Credit time.com

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It's Time magazine's  "Person Of The Year."

This year's Person of the Year is Pope Francis, with NSA leaker Edward Snowden reportedly coming in second.

Before and after Time's naming of the Person of the Year, there was all kinds of attention focused on the choice in social media and on blogs.

And, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project" says that kind of new media attention is really helping what is, essentially, an old media hanger-on.

"It started in 1937 with Charles Lindbergh as the 'Man of the Year,'" McBride said of Time's award. "But it's really come into its own in this modern, digital age we're living in."

And that's even though this is an honor bestowed by a magazine (a dying breed?) which is presumptuous enough to think it can decide who is the "Person of the Year."

"Oh it's incredibly presumptuous, that's why it works," explained McBride. "It used to be that Time would pick the Person of the Year and the major networks would do a short piece on it and it would go away. Now we have these conversations ahead of time where we know what their short list looks like. And many, many people were lobbying for Snowden long before the decision was made. And, after the decision was made, many people have continued to make good arguments for why it should be Edward Snowden instead of Pope Francis."

And Time magazine isn't the only game in town these days when it comes to choosing the most influential person during the year.

Other news organizations select a person of the year. The Guardian in London did select Edward Snowden," McBride said. "Facebook released a chart of what people were talking about this year and Pope Francis topped the Facebook chart, too. Edward Snowden didn't even make the top ten. So that's another way to judge the conversation."