When asked for suggestions for most influential person of 2018, Time magazine readers submitted 55 different nominees ranging from Lady Gaga to Serena Williams, from Pope Gregory to Vladimir Putin, from Stacey Abrams to Elon Musk.
At 13 percent, President Donald Trump was the top vote getter, followed by BTS (the South Korean boys band or the Bureau of Transportation Statistics?). Planet Earth was third–possibly the storms, earthquakes and fires of 2019 rather than the English documentaries or the Prince album.
I wish I’d nominated the organized and dedicated team that managed to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in Idaho this year. Their work will not only change the lives of those in the “gap,” but also enhance the image of Idaho voters. Including the volunteers who managed similar victories in Utah and Nebraska would multiply the impact.
And those who’ve aided refugees from Central America deserve recognition. An October article in The Washington Post said more than two dozen groups have been offering water, medication, and aid in filling out asylum applications. A later article reported that World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded by chef Jose’ Andres, has been serving “about 3,000 meals a day” at the border.
And the editorial board at Time magazine gave the coveted award to—drum roll, please— none of the above.
They honored ”The Guardians,” members of the media who speak truth in this troubled age.
In retrospect, Guardians seems not only right, but obvious. Worldwide, more than 50 journalists have been killed this year, and more than 250 jailed. These men and women have struggled to discover and share information about civil wars, drug lords, government corruption, and local conflicts. They’ve worked on in spite of social media misinformation, wide circulation of “alternative truths,” and being declared enemies of democracy.
And many compelling stories are featured in Time’s Dec. 11 issue; for the first time editors chose to honor four different representatives with covers: Jamal Khashoggi, a reporter and U.S. resident killed in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey; Maria Ressa, editor of an independent newspaper chronicling a violent drug war and thousands of extrajudicial killings by government forces in the Philippines; Wa Lone and Kyaw Soc Oo, reporters in Myanmar who were jailed after revealing a police execution of 10 Rohingya men; and the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where an angry reader shot up the newsroom and killed five.
Journalists were honored “for taking risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and speaking out…”
The cover story gives a good overview of the changes shaking journalism from the death of cable the fairness doctrine to the proliferation of online rewrites to major cutbacks in staff and funding. The U.S.has 1800 fewer newspapers than it did in 2004, and 25,000 fewer journalists than in 2009. Five major companies a disturbing amount of our media.
The emphasis, however, is on the struggle for truth. Time editor Edward Felsenthal wrote, “Today, democracy around the world faces its biggest crisis in decades…From Russia to Riyadh to Silicon Valley, manipulation and abuse of truth is the common thread in so many of this year’s major headlines, an insidious and growing threat to freedom.”
While our President admires autocrats and expects his every word accepted as truth, the United States’ role as the beacon of democracy is weakening.
Those among us who act with courage and dedication to seek out and share truth deserve our respect and thanks.