Monday, December 20, 2004

Yes, the nation now knows Time magazine picked President Bush as its “Person of the Year” for 2004. Such things are open to translation, though.

Naming a Someone — or Something — of the Year has become the mode of choice for anyone hoping to leave an imprint on history as December ebbs away.

The Pew Research Center, for instance, yesterday cited “high gasoline prices” as the “Top News Interest Story of 2004,” based on a poll of 2,000 adults conducted Dec. 1-16. News from Iraq, the Florida hurricanes, the terrorist massacre of Russian schoolchildren and the presidential campaign rounded out the top five stories.

Though the winner will not be revealed until tomorrow, Mr. Bush’s White House victory appears to be the nation’s top story, according to a poll of readers of the online Drudge Report, followed by the death of former President Ronald Reagan.

The Virginia-based Media Research Center, meanwhile, named CBS’ Dan Rather as source for the most outrageous “Quote of the Year,” which the newsman delivered March 31, the day four American civilians were killed and mutilated in Fallujah, Iraq.

“What drives American civilians to risk death in Iraq? In this economy it may be, for some, the only job they can find,” Mr. Rather said.

CBS correspondent Morley Safer was runner-up for this observation about Mr. Reagan: “I don’t think history has any reason to be kind to him,” made on CNN nine days after the president’s passing.

The top news story of the year over at the National Geographic, meanwhile, concerned the once-every-17-years invasion of billions of “Brood X” cicadas across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

Sometimes just a word will do, though. Merriam Webster proclaimed the “2004 Word of the Year” to be “blog,” based on the number of inquiries the Boston-based dictionary publisher received on the word. “Incumbent” was runner-up.

The year’s best don’t have to be human, either.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association, for example, deemed “Colin Powell” — a sleek, yellow-eyed Bombay — the “2004 CFA Cat of the Year.”

Not to be outdone, Robb’s Books, a Massachusetts-based science-book seller, named the fat dormouse “Animal of the Year,” while the hover fly won “Insect of the Year” and dry rot was named “Fungus of the Year.”

But for most, people and events dominated end-of-year awards.

Rolling Stone magazine put Bruce Springsteen at the top of its “People of the Year” list for his support of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry during the presidential campaign, while the men’s magazine GQ deemed actor Jude Law “Man of the Year.”

BET — the Black Entertainment Television network — named Sean “P. Diddy” Combs its “Person of the Year,” noting the hip-hop vocalist added “political power broker to his list of meteoric accomplishments in 2004.”

By virtue of his support of same-sex “marriage,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom “most profoundly impacted the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in 2004,” according to Planet Out, a San Francisco-based news organization for homosexuals.

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart beat 30 high-profile competitors to win the I Want Media Web site’s “Person of the Year.” Radio shock jock Howard Stern and White House adviser Karl Rove were runners-up.

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