For the second year in a row, the Time Person of the Year is not an individual, but a group. The 2018 choice is “The Guardians” in the war on truth: four journalists and one publication striving to tell compelling stories in the age of disinformation and hostility against reporters of the news.
Among those chosen were murdered Saudi Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and The Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md., which was attacked by a gunman who killed five of its staffers earlier this year. Also included is Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler, an independent news site that has uncovered details about the drug war waged by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, and jailed journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were imprisoned in Myanmar for reporting on the massacre of Rohingya Muslims.
Ben Goldberger, assistant managing editor of Time, spoke to Observer about the selection process that determines the honorees. “We take so many different factors into account,” Goldberger said. “It’s the person or persons with the most influence on the world, for good or for ill. As we looked at many of the year’s dominant news stories, we realized the common thread was the increasingly slippery slope of truth.”
In 2017, Time‘s Person of the Year was “The Silence Breakers:” women who came forward to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault, thus kicking off a movement that has since exposed countless abusers once hiding in the shadows. This marked a radical change in tone for the same magazine that has, in the past, given Person of the Year to Bill Clinton (twice, in 1992 and 1998) and Vladimir Putin (in 2007).
Goldberger says this shift is very much intentional. “When you look back at the history, until somewhat recently, [Person of the Year] used to recognize institutional influence,” he told Observer. “But the changing nature of ‘person,’ or even entities, of the year is, I think, a recognition of the shifting nature of power and influence in the world, and a recognition that the world can be changed from the bottom up as well as from the top down.”
“Easily some of the most entertaining pitches come from our culture writers, who make cases for entertainers, musicians and other folks,” Goldberger said. “We take influence in those realms very seriously. With Meghan in particular, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating a good news story in a year that could use one.”
The 2018 Person of the Year cover images were taken by celebrated war photographer Moises Saman. “Moises has done really remarkable work around the world,” Goldberger said. “He was detained and held in Abu Ghraib during the Iraq War, and he’s been blacklisted as well. He’s shared a lot of similar experiences with his subjects, and one of the reasons that his work was so resonant here was because that was very much the case.”
Ultimately, the magazine’s selection for Person of the Year is not only about showing how the honorees have effected change, but also how they’ll continue to do so in the years to come. “We think of it as a forward-looking choice, not merely a retrospective one,” Goldberger said.