- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Me Generation might be mutating into the You Generation, if Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” is an accurate gauge. The nation’s collective “you” is among the contenders for the annual award.

The “you” in this case reflects the citizen-driven culture found on Web logs, in marketing and elsewhere. Indeed, “the guys” from YouTube.com, an online compendium of amateur video clips, lead the magazine’s reader poll for the title, defined by the publication as “the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year.”

The YouTube founders are beating out newly minted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 21 percent to 20 percent. President Bush stands a distant third with 15 percent. Former Vice President Al Gore is close at his heels with 14 percent of the votes.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are neck and neck at 10 percent, followed by North Korea leader Kim Jong-il (6 percent) and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (5 percent).

Time also is inviting members of the general public to more or less nominate themselves for “Person of the Year.” Anyone older than 18 can submit a photograph for consideration. The winner’s mug will beam down from electronic billboards that overlook Times Square in Manhattan and Dundas Square in Toronto. There is a corporate caveat: There’s no payment or reimbursement, and all photos become the property of Time Inc.

Although the magazine honored “the computer” in 1982 and “the American soldier” in 2003, its management favors a human over an abstract entity as its “Person of the Year.”

“I personally like it when a person is ‘Person of the Year,’ ” Managing Editor Richard Stengel said during a panel debate Tuesday that pitted cultural titans and politicians — including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — against one another.

NBC’s Brian Williams was first to broach the idea of the American “you,” though he complained that YouTube-style content distracts the public from “well thought-out, well-reported evening newscasts.”

Actor Emilio Estevez suggested that “all of us” be nominated, while Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., suggested “the American voter.” Mr. DeLay said “the anonymous philanthropist” was a better choice, while the Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington voted for “Reality,” according to an account yesterday in Advertising Age.

Time’s poll was deemed buzzworthy by bloggers themselves, who had their own suggestions for Person of the Year, or “POTY.” Among the favorites at Manhattan-based Gawker.com: Borat, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, “Macaca,” Oprah Winfrey and Jesus Christ.

The competition also has attracted oddsmakers. Sportsbook.com is placing Google Chairman Eric Schmidt as a 9-2 favorite and Mr. Gore with 5-1 odds. Mr. Kim has been given 10-1 odds, and Mr. Ahmadinejad is a 20-1 long shot.

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