TIME out on half-a-million votes

Dec 16, 20090 comments

14-December 2009 ReutersComputerIn the last 6 months, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time refreshing Twitter from my browser, hoping for some snippet of news from inside Iran. Before June 12th, most of my tweets were limited to snarky comments about my job or the weather. Reading back now, I’m not surprised my first tweet after the election reads I sat flipping through channels & found no coverage. Lots about Jon & Kate + 8, however. Since the end of the summer, media coverage of the Iran Protesters has come in inconsistent waves. There was a bit of coverage of Iran’s demonstrations for 13 Aban and a bit more for 16 Azar – just enough for me to collect into a 6-video YouTube playlist. We’ve come to rely on the citizen journalists of Iran, who risk their lives every time they slip a camera phone from their pockets in hopes of capturing a grainy, 30-second clip for YouTube. It’s the social networks like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook that have circulated and treasured any and every bit of media streaming from Iran. Many of us perked up when TIME Magazine stepped up and ended the coverage drought by listing Iran Protesters as a nominee for “Person of the Year.” Iran Protesters quickly hit number one and stayed there. (See screen shot of the final vote count below) Every nominee is given a “Pro” and “Con” paragraph with reasons about why that particular nominee deserves or doesn’t deserve to take the title of “Person of the Year.” And while I wasn’t too impressed by the Pro argument for Iran Protesters, I found the first sentence of the Con more jarring.

Con: In the end, any hopes that the protests would usher in a flowering of Iranian democracy were shattered by the violent reprisals…

The past six months of sporadic – but not so random – demonstrations are proof that this movement still exists and will continue to exist, thanks in part to the magic of social media and a few thousand savvy Iranian youth. New protest videos emerge nearly every day, and the rate at which they’re passed around convince me that there are more people clicking these YouTube links than we imagine. Despite the troubling “Con” claim, I continued to hope that the Iran Protesters could win. I’m aware that covers sell magazines; I just couldn’t help daydreaming about buying ten copies of the Iran Protesters cover, in addition to the over-sized, blown up poster version of the cover I was planning to frame and hang on my wall. I was still naïve enough to expect to see the Iran Protesters on the shortlist. When I pulled up December 14th’s Today Show clip of TIME’s managing editor announcing the Top 7 nominees, I had a hard time processing how and why the Iran Protesters didn’t make the cut – despite landing first place with 573,561 votes (about five times as many votes as the second place nominee, President Obama).

This is a rare moment in TIME, and one that the magazine seems to have willingly let slip away. In six months, the seeds of a significant and massively popular civil rights movement have greened and the evolution of social media as a necessary information hub has hurried to keep pace. 573,561 people seem to agree.Picture 3

The clear disclaimer at the top of the TIME voting page isn’t lost on the site or on me. It reads “Take a look at the candidates and give them your rating — though TIME’s editors reserve the right to disagree.” Somehow TIME has managed to disagree with over half-a-million people. Which is fine, I guess. Mainstream media has no real obligation to be socially responsible. Or even a responsibility to the new visitors lured to the TIME site (me included; I only bother with TIME at the dentist’s office) touting a weight-less, online poll. I feel more hopeful knowing that a single tweet expressing disappointment over a lost moment in TIME can escalate into thousands of people threatening to cancel their TIME subscriptions and switch to Newsweek. And among the hundreds of threats of action against TIME, I take the most comfort in the one claim of inaction being RTed over and over:

…I know a half-a-million magazines TIME WON’T be selling… #iranelection #TimeEPICFAIL