Scott Horton: I wrote earlier that Richard Stengel was busily emptying Time magazine of its news content and filling it with opinion blather. About a week later I was contacted in quick succession by two Time staffers, one an editor. My assessment, one said, was “truer than you will ever guess. A lot of folks on the staff are heartsick about it.” Rather than give up on Time, I’ve made a point of continuing to track it.
The last couple of issues did not raise my hopes. I’d say that the dividing lines between People
are quickly dissolving. A good demonstration can be found in Time
’s list of the one hundred most influential persons on earth: the list is filled with American pop culture figures, but doesn’t include George W. Bush, the most powerful political figure on the planet
. As Time
is wont to remind us when it names a person of the year, the test is “influence for better or for worse.” After all, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao won that cherished cover portrait.
The current choice shows a simple lack of seriousness, a surrender to the world of suburban malls and tabloids. It’s not the Time that I remember and cherish. Time once published a series called Time Capsules—one for each year summarizing the best of the magazine in the course of that year. I loved them and hoarded copies that covered the era from the twenties through World War II. It was a terrific way to relive history, from the perspective of the well-informed citizen of the period. Today’s Time is a precipitous drop from the Time I remember. It’s a shame.
I don’t think Bush has ever been as influential as he is now. If he supports something, vast numbers of people around the world – and a majority of Americans – will automatically oppose it. Whatever else that is, it’s influence.
And what does it say about Time
’s editor that George W. Bush is ranked # 1 in 2004, but doesn’t make the list in 2007? Time
is an American institution. And it’s being suffocated.