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 and Time 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.

So what can we say about the choice of the 100 most influential? Andrew Sullivan has it just right, I think:

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.