Wednesday, April 18, 2012

100 Most Influential People: Time Blows It Again

I've mentioned on this blog before that I hate magazines running list features; they're usually lazy attempts to create buzz around something that is ultimately useless and devoid of value, not to mention devoid of credibility. Magazines try to come up with them because, first, they are inexpensive to create (no long-term investigative reporting and potential liability involved); second, they make the magazine (or whatever media outlet) look like an authority; and third, they get people to talk about your publication (magazine, website, TV show, whatever) so it does marketing and it fools some people into thinking it's serious journalism. Genius!

Time magazine released its cover story list of the "100 most influential people in the world," and it is a perfect example of these useless lists. One hundred people might sound like a lot, so it might be understandable – even forgivable – if a couple odd choices were included. But when you think about a global population of nearly 7 billion, even the most forgiving observer would have to agree that Chelsea Handler just does not belong in the top 100 most influential people. Even if you say she's one of the top 100 influencers just within the American entertainment industry, you might be stretching believability a lot. And I have nothing against Ms. Handler.

Read the list. It does include a handful of people who should be on any such list. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Tim Cook, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and a very few others. But the majority of the people on the list simply appear to be there for marketing purposes. Seriously, Marco Rubio is on the list? Someone most Americans couldn't identify in a lineup is one of the most influential people – not in the Republican Party, not in Florida politics, not even in American politics, but in the world? No, he's not. And Adele is not the world's most influential person, nor is she the most influential singer. She has a great voice and sells buckets of records, but that's not necessarily the same thing as influence and power. Come back in 15 years, and we'll see how influential she's been.

The pope does not make the list. You might like him, you might not like him. I'm not even Catholic. But I do know that he is one of the most influential people in the world, year in and year out. The leader of China, Hu Jintao, is not on the list. (Really?? Really.) Neither of the Koch brothers is on the list, and we're all living in their world.

Time has managed to do the very difficult task of taking a useless feature – the self-generated list – and make it even more useless, turning it into a parody of the genre. Genius!

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