Last year, I had great responses from a blog post and survey about TIME's Person of the Year, so I decided to revisit the topic as we start to look back on the people and events that shaped the news in 2014.
My interest in this began a few years ago when my Aunt Rosie told me of a great Thanksgiving tradition: After the big meal, her family discusses who should be named TIME's Person of the Year. So for the second year in a row, I have decided to offer up the question as a topic for readers of my blog and have included a survey in this post. I have suggested a few nominees, and you can vote for one of them or write-in your own.
Quick background: TIME named Charles Lindbergh its first "Man of the Year" in 1927, and each year since has featured a person, group, idea, or object that "for better or for worse has done the most to influence the events of the year." Previous winners have included U.S. presidents, world leaders, executives, scientists, and bad guys like Hitler, Stalin, and Ayatollah Khomeini. Concepts and groups win too. "The American Soldier" won in 2003; "The Protestors" (representing the Arab Spring, Tea Party, and Occupy movements) were named in 2011. Last year, TIME recognized Pope Francis.
My nominees for 2014, in no particular order, are:
Jeff Bezos. The founder and CEO of Amazon.com is no stranger to the honor as he was Person of the Year in 1999, emblematic of the first Internet boom. Today, Amazon has grown from an online book seller to a huge retailer that sells nearly everything. Amazon Prime, though launched in 2005, reached new heights in the past year as it enables customers who pay an annual membership fee to receive free two-day shipping on many products as well as access to a vast array of online movies, television, music, and cloud storage. With Bezos at the helm, the company has transformed how many of us buy goods and watch movies and television shows; it will likely change how we buy other things in the future. In addition, Bezos personally purchased the Washington Post in 2013 and has rebuilt that renowned newspaper's newsroom and steered it back into a trend-setting news outlet.
Ebola Doctors and Nurses. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and subsequent diagnosis of a few patients in the United States generated a worldwide panic that caused airline and travel stocks to drop, altered immigration policies and fomented multiple political debates on treatment and action plans. Sometimes lost in the noise are the doctors and nurses, both in Africa and other parts of the world, who are treating the victims of the highly contagious and deadly disease. Even with proper equipment and training, the doctors and nurses who care for Ebola patients run a high risk of infection if just so much as part of their skin is exposed to the bodily fluids of a contagious victim. Without these courageous healthcare workers, this outbreak could have reached catastrophic levels.
Michael Brown and Ferguson Protestors. Ferguson, Missouri resident Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in August. The controversial shooting of Brown, an African American, by a member of the Ferguson PD, comprised almost entirely of white officers, set off a series of both violent and peaceful protests in the small town outside St. Louis. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson last week, setting off further protests and focusing national attention on the racial divide that still besets America.
Jack Ma. A year ago, Alibaba was the biggest company that most Americans had never heard of. Founded by Jack Ma in 1999, Alibaba, a huge e-commerce company in China, went public this year in the largest IPO in U.S. history. With a current market value $231 billion and flush with cash, it has the potential to continue to change retailing in China and possibly other parts of the world.
Harvey Levin. Lawyer and reporter Harvey Levin helped launch TMZ in 2005 and continues to serve as its managing editor. Traditionally known for its celebrity gossip and paparazzi-type coverage, TMZ significantly influenced mainstream news in 2014. For example, video footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking his then-fiancé in an elevator first aired on TMZ, apparently before NFL executives ever saw it and leading to Rice's domestic battery matter being re-opened by the football league. Increasingly, specialized media companies are breaking national stories and successfully encroaching on the territory of the country's more prestigious outlets. Levin and TMZ are at the forefront of this change.
Jihad John. This masked terrorist serves as the "face" of the ISIS movement in Iraq, having beheaded at least five Westerners, including U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. ISIS is known for killing dozens of people at a time and carrying out public executions, crucifixions, and other acts. It has taken over large swaths of northern and western Iraq. ISIS remains one of the greatest threats to world peace and represents a level of terroristic extremism that may threaten Western democracies for years to come.
Millennials. This is my only nominee to carry over from last year. This previously maligned group of individuals, born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, are leading the charge of change in many aspects of American life. Compared to their older brethren, Millennials are less likely to have a home phone, cable TV, or a car, and they are beginning to start more companies, often with an eye on social change. They were born tech-savvy and have already started to change the social fabric of our country.
Click here to vote in my survey. I will keep you apprised of the results and look for TIME's winner on Dec. 10th.