Voices on Time's choices
graphic December 9, 2001: 7:30 a.m. ET

Readers, viewers weigh in on Time's Person of the Year quandary
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - To My Buddies at Time:

I wanted to update you on the buzz we're getting over here at CNN/Money over your "Person of the Year" exercise. Namely, your inclusion of Osama bin Laden on the list of candidates.

The buzz is not good.

As you know, we've been talking about it on the CNN Money Morning television show. I also wrote a column about it. And my comrades at ran a poll on it.

Well the poll, with over a quarter of a million responses, ran about 84 percent against Osama's candidacy. The email I'm getting is running that way too. And a lot of it isn't too respectful. Take Meredith's note here:

What the HELL is wrong with you people? I am so mad I can't even type. Have you lost your minds or are you just idiots? - Meredith

Others take a less angry, but understandably sorrowful, tone.

There was an announcement on the radio today that many of the people missing at the WTC will probably never be found b/c they were vaporized. My son is one of those people. Now Time Magazine has his killer on a list of candidates to be selected "Man of the Year"? This is some great country we live in when the devil incarnate ends up on that list. Anything to make a buck. - JW

Hey, you at the magazine have pointed out that the list is simply made up of people who made news this year. Osama bin Laden definitely made news. You've also noted that this isn't an award. It's a recognition of impact. Just check out past recipients, like Hitler and Stalin.

Some people, albeit a tiny minority, get that:

It was Osama bin Laden who, though not single-handedly, ... brought Americans together is a way that none of us born after WWII have ever known.  Bin Laden, through al Qaeda, has changed the course of modern history in ways that we cannot yet begin to fathom.  2001 will be remembered not because of what George Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld or Rudy Giuliani did from Janaury 1st to Sept. 10th, but for what bin Laden inspired, funded and applauded on September 11th.  For better or worse, for good or evil, Osama bin Laden is the Man of 2001. - James

But the vast majority does not. I think part of that has to do with the name "Person of the Year." Quite frankly, it should be "Newsmaker of the Year." Old reporters' trick: Call it what it is.

Also, and this is tricky, there is a question of journalistic purpose being raised by the exercise. It's coming down to whether or not it's more important to be a good journalist or a good American. Those of us steeped in the biz probably agree that being a good journalist IS being a good American. But others don't see it that way.

Those who work for Time Magazine have as much obligation to fight terrorism and protect Americans as do the rest of us in this country. Just because you work for the media doesn't absolve you of the rights and responsibilities of being Americans. - Joseph

The Arab world, particularly the terrorists, won't understand the fine distinction Time Magazine makes for its reason for choosing and will think of bin Laden as being dubbed a hero by a major U. S. magazine!! - Ginny

On the positive side, there are a lot of suggestions about who should get the recognition. The candidates I listed - President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani all got support, as did the notion of policemen and firemen in general.

And there were other intriguing thematic ideas.

All the other folks were doing their jobs. Bush was elected (well, sort of). Ditto Giuliani. The firefighters were getting paid to get those folks out. And they rose to the occasion splendidly, no doubt about it. But on UAL 93, the true spirit of America rose to the occasion WAY above what would be expected of them. OK, so Bin laden started it, but like the folks on UAL 93 showed, Americans are going to finish it. -- DR

There are plenty of other suggestions ... check the CNN message board.

If you want to discuss the possible choices further, Jack Cafferty, the anchor of our morning business program on CNNfn, has an open invitation for one of you guys to come onto the show. That is, until you announce it Dec. 22.

In the meantime, you may want to keep tabs on the buzz. Part of journalism is listening as well as telling. graphic

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