Turn a few pages of the "Time 100" -- ostensibly the "most influential people in the world" -- and you can easily see it as a gimmick, and not a serious attempt to measure influence. Look no further than the media. In the new 2011 list, one media name stands out -- Joe Scarborough, the liberal-pleasing "Republican" MSNBC host Mark Levin calls "The Morning Schmo." There are no Fox News hosts and no liberal-media TV stars and no talk-radio titans. Time editor Richard Stengel is a guest on the Scarborough show, and they often hype the new Time magazine cover, so declaring him influential looks very much like a bit of commercial/political pork-barreling. The tribute to Joe came from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (the two Manhattan centrists have been talked up as a presidential dream team):
As a group, cable-television talk-show hosts are not exactly known for independent political analysis that is free of partisan favoritism, but that is exactly what makes Joe Scarborough, 48, so refreshing — and so important. Joe's approach to politics is the same as mine: call 'em like you see 'em, and even if people don't agree with you on every issue — and they won't — they will respect you for being honest. They will know you are not shilling for a party or an ideology. And they will do exactly what you would hope any voter — and any viewer — would do: listen with an open mind and come to their own conclusions.
On every issue, Joe speaks his mind without fear or favor, because he puts his country before his party. He served for seven years as a Republican Congressman from Florida, but he is a patriot before he is a politician or a pundit. That independence is what makes Joe Scarborough such a valuable voice in American politics. And it's what makes Morning Joe such a successful show. (That, and of course the real star of the show, Mika Brzezinski.)
For previous events in Time hero-pork, see the case of Bill and Melinda Gates -- Time funders in November, Persons of the Year in December.
Newsweek has also honored Scarborough, and then-Newsweek editor Jon Meacham has also been a Morning Joe regular. Take as a sign of Joe Scarborough's apparently imposing global influence this piece for Newsweek in early 2010: "Is the Tea Party Over? The anti-Obama anger that helped fuel the ‘Massachusetts Miracle’ is now threatening to tear the movement apart."
Oprah Winfrey was acknowledged, and the author was CNN founder Ted Turner:
I have always admired independent thinkers, those with the courage, faith and intuition to forge their own ways. In business, these pioneers take calculated risks; care less about bottom lines and more about ideas and innovation; and are intent on bettering the world along the way. Oprah, 57, defines this approach. She has not only made it to the top with the cards stacked against her, but she has also made extraordinary contributions to our global community through her philanthropic efforts.
CNN revolutionized the news based on a good idea, good people and a lot of inspired guesswork. Under Oprah, the OWN channel is primed to combat the tabloid programming we've become accustomed to with smart, enlightened, informative content.
I have often said that if women ruled the world for the next 100 years, we'd all be better off. I have a feeling that with the possibilities at Oprah's fingertips, we may be one step closer.
Dan Rather was assigned to hail the journalism of Al-Jazeera English reporter Aymed Mohyeldin:
All journalists hope that at least once in their career, they'll be covering the world's biggest story and be the best at doing it. With Egypt's revolution, Ayman Mohyeldin's hopes became reality. Many journalists did good work in Egypt at the country's - and the region's - historic turning point, but none matched Mohyeldin, 31. He put us in the middle of the action and took us behind the scenes; he riveted us to the story as it developed toward its climax and kept us along for the aftermath. By dint of his experience, persistence and talent, he lifted the profile and reputation of the al-Jazeera network. And for one brief, shining moment, he was the best in the world.
Julian Assange was hailed by uber-feminist writer Germaine Greer: "There were many scoops but few surprises amid what we learned from WikiLeaks. Regardless of what happens to Assange, which he will almost certainly not deserve, the construction of stateless, secure and indestructible Internet drop boxes cannot be undone. Secrets will never be safe again."