The fuss over Spanish crack golfer Gonzales Fernandez-Castono’s response to Time Magazine naming Greta Thunberg their person of the year was ill-placed.
“So what,” he wrote and pointed out that Hitler was their nominee in 1938 and Stalin twice won Time’s person of the year. The magazine’s award is based on who in its judgement, whether for better or worse, made the most impact. Accordingly, both Greta and specially Hitler in 1938 were appropriate choices. The main rival to Greta was Trump but the magazine probably opted for the Swede, seeing her impact as positive as opposed to the abomination currently despoiling the world’s highest public office, having a negative impact. However, their past Stalin choice puzzles me. At no stage did he dominate world events. His legacy is terrible but there was never a single earth-shattering decision and most of all his sins were not fully uncovered until decades after his death.
But here’s what gets me about this issue. As with newspapers everywhere, Time is in its death spiral. In the last dozen years it’s weekly sales have collapsed from 4 million to 2 million. Like our newspapers it’s unable to compete with the new electronic order providing instant news as it occurs thus it’s replaced news-reporting for quality journalism on current affairs. So too with newspapers.
Check any newspaper from 40 years ago and you will find comments confined to the cartoon, the editorial (s) and readers’ letters. 90% of its content was hard news. Today’s newspapers, are 90% opinion pieces and thus on their death bed.
Given all of that why did the world’s media accord so much attention to the Time magazine announcement? It’s opinion simply no longer counts. So too in New Zealand where the Herald annually declares someone to be New Zealander of the Year. No harm in that so long as they prefix it with “The New Zealand Herald’s New Zealander of the Year,” but arrogantly, they don’t.
The same applies to Wellington’s Dominion Post annual “Wellingtonian of the Year” announcement, made as if it’s a declaration from on-high rather than the reality, namely the opinion of a bunch of scruffy journos.
What’s specially farcical is their tendency to award it to individuals no-one’s heard of, who have spent their lives helping out in soup kitchens, wiping alcoholics’ bums and such-like activities. Altruistic though these endeavours may be, they do not constitute Wellingtonian of the Year status. But no matter, the Dom’s entitled to award such an accolade to whoever they wish, with the provision they prefix it as “The Dominion-Post’s Wellingtonian of the Year.”
The fact remains that anyone’s entitled to express an opinion of say, New Zealander of the Year. I even did it once in my nationally syndicated weekly newspaper column, mind you my selection was a shoo-in.
I awarded it to our then Auditor General, at the time residing in prison for having been caught with his hand in the till. Given his position I felt that was a truly remarkable achievement deserving of recognition.