Saturday, March 30, 2013

Celebritology: Who's relevant in 2012-2013 according to Time, its readers and myself?

Celebritology is highly relevant to me in the field of news. In TV and films, I delve into actors and there relevance, but looking at every celebrity from every field and contemplating their relative importance to one another is a highly refined art for anyone writing about news because anyone writing articles for even a community level has to think objectively about who and what is newsworthy when undergoing both the pitching and selection process. I decided not only to dive into this year's poll that precedes Time's 100 Most Influential People issue but to publicize those results as well. In making my decisions, I openly admit I'm biased with personal relevance and the degree of personal contact I've had with the stories of these people, which is the filter through which we all experience and decide what is newsworthy. Here are the first fifty names out of the 153 candidates.

The numbers after the names are the percentage of online viewers who deemed them newsworthy/influential/relevant after which is my vote which is either Yes, No or Abstain (if I didn't have enough info to make a decision either way):

Ben Affleck-53%-Yes-His comeback story captivated us and in the process said a lot about our relationship with celebrities. Also, winning the Oscar for best picture and gaming the voting system in the process surely makes you relevant.

Roger Ailes (Fox News Chief)-Abstain-Just not educated enough about him and his role to know much. I'd argue that the most partisan news networks didn't shape the 2012 election as much as previous ones but I don't know his extent into it all

Bashar Assad-Yes-He's killed 70,000 people for godsakes. When the Onion writes an article that barely qualifies as satire and looks more as a desperate attempt to inform people of the atrocity, you're not only relevant, but more people should definitely know about you. Just to reiterate here, newsworthy doesn't necessarily qualify as a good thing.

Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin politician and the first openly gay U.S. Senator)-82%-No-It's 2012. Being an openly gay anything except possibly professional sports player isn't enough to warrant relevance in my eyes. 

Benedict XVI-45%-No-Being the retiring Pope isn't as newsworthy as being the incoming Pope who looks to bring some real reforms and attitude changes, so I'd rather see the news coverage go to the new guy

David and Victoria Beckham-20%-Yes-I'm contradicting myself because I advocated not caring about a retiree in my last vote, but then again, Beckham's reign with MLS (and the end of that reign is newsworthy via its timeliness) did lead to spectacular growth for the league which provides a lesson to other leagues on how to create an international sensation. Victoria, on her own, is the least newsworthy entry on the entire list.

Fatou Bensouda (Gambian lawyer/UN Prosecutor)-75%-Yes-Although it's close to abstain because I'm not that well-informed on this issue

Beyonce-68%-Yes-An activist whose especially close to the Obama administration, one of the most popular singers of the present day, performed at both the Inaguration and the Superbowl, that qualifies in the world of arts

Kathryn Bigelow-63%-No-I saw the movie myself and it wasn't too far-removed from an episode of Homeland. In other words, Bigelow's not the first to explore the dark side to the world on terrorism and eloquently put it into art.

Michael Bloomberg-62%-Yes-As a remarkable politician who's usurping the very democratic ideal of term limits in the country's most powerful city, Bloomberg is nearly always relevant, but the timeliness angle helps which comes from the soda ban controversy and the gun laws

Usain Bolt-78%-Marginally Yes-In 2008 and 2009 he would be a resounding yes, but timeliness is about something new which he didn't necessarily do. He still made the biggest headlines in the Summer Olympics which is the biggest sporting event in history

Cory Booker-72%-Yes-This is almost an abstain for me, because while I'm well-informed about him as a person and how he's one of the country's most effective mayors and most forward-thinking and politicians, I am unclear as to his timeliness. I recently went to a talk by a couple young mayors and they both said they were heavily inspired by Booker which barely qualifies him in my relative experience. The point here is that news is timely and its also personally relevant.

David Bowie-82%-No-Yes, he's famous, but timeliness, guys: What have you done for me lately? The timeliness problem is why I cringe at the fact that Paul McCartney seems to get interviewed every two or three months by some gushy morning show anchor. It's also why I suspect he has a high vote

Ben Bernake-Abstain-I'm not well-informed about the topics in the business section of the newspaper

Jeff Bezos-84%-No-I can't vote yes for every internet CEO. I'm going to use timeliness here and suggest that Bezos is inevitably doing great things every year, but I don't remember hearing of anything particularly notable coming from Amazon

John Brennan-45%-Yes-His confirmation process was protested by innocent bystanders if that's not enough controversy for you. 

Connie Britton-30%-No-Please, she's not even a good actress. 

Warren Beatty-Abstain

Emad Burnat-(Palestinian documentarian whose 5 Broken Cameras was nominated for an Oscar)-83%-No-Being nominated for an Academy Award for best film makes you far more relevant than best documentary. Five films get nominated each year and far fewer than that number (What else besides Exit Through the Gift Shop, Waiting for Superman, An Inconvenient Truth, Michael Moore's films, Supersize Me do you guys actually remember?) actually make their way into the cultural consciousness. As someone who follows film, I haven't heard of that one (remember: personal relevance comes through personal experience so I'm judging based on whether something is newsworthy to me)

David Cameron-49%-Yes-The Prime Minister of Britain is big enough that I'll give a rare timeliness pass to. In other words, I know nothing about what he's done in the past 12 months, but I'll make an educated guess that he, being the PM of Great Britain has done plenty.

Sister Simone Campbell (Executive director of Network, a liberal Catholic advocacy group, and leader of the Nuns on the Bus movement to promote public programs for the poor)-83%-Yes-I've read about her in the news and with religion being a hot topic this year, that makes her more relevant

Robert Cantu (Neurosurgeon, co-director of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and a leading expert on concussions)-86%-Marginally Yes-The gimmick here is that he's being put in the Top 100 to put a face on the science community that's involved with the hot topic on football concussions. However, the question is whether Robert Cantu, himself, is significant in the battle against preventing concussions, or whether he's one of many professionals that is getting a disproportionate share of the credit. At the end of the day, I think the football concussion debate deserves a larger platform of readership which would be accomplished with Cantu's inclusion.

Robert Caro (Journalist and author of a 30-years-in-the-making Lyndon B. Johnson opus)-40%-Marginal Yes-Distinguishing between academics in terms of relevance is a difficult task because so many of them are quietly changing and influencing the world. Caro gets a yes from me because, if nothing else he's interesting (devoting 30 years of your life on a book about Lyndon Johnson, who would do that?) and I'd like to read more about him. 

Jackie Chan (Hong Kong martial-arts king and outspoken Chinese political appointee)-78%-No-His newsworthiness as a movie star (seriously, check the box office receipts on his films) is at least 10 years past its expiration date, and to what degree is he being an outspoken voice with regard to Chinese policy. It's like how at least one out of every three famous people in Hollywood is an ambassador for UNICEF. I admire your commitment to a cause, guys, but in very few cases have I ever been influenced by your message (not to take away from the people in those foreign countries hearing your message). 

Jessica Chastain-60%-Yes-Although she didn't win the Oscar, Chastain is one of the hottest and most relevant actresses in Hollywood and her amazing performance in Bigelow's film did a lot to capture the zeitgeist on the War on Terror. Bigelow made a film that, at the end of the day, proved unremarkable, but the performance of Chastain in that film is worth talking about. 

Ferrodon Abbasi-Davani (Head of Iran’s nuclear program)-49%-Abstain-I have no idea of his involvement with said nuclear program so a big fat abstain for me. 

Chan Guangang  (Activist holding China to account from exile in New York City)-84%-Yes-It's the difference between any old Civil Rights leader or Harriett Tubman or Rosa Parks. The latter examples are remarkable stories that moves and inspires us. Aside from causing an international incident, he inspires us.

Perry Chen, CEO of Kickstarter-94%-Yes-He's changing art and commerce so most definitely. He's the reason you cautiously vote no on someone like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg or the Google guys. In technology news, always be on the lookout for the next best thing. 

Yao Chen, Chinese Microblogger-63%-No-Sorry lady, there's only room for one Chinese activist in our national cultural consciousness and Guangang took that spot, but you finish ahead of Jackie Chan in my book. 

Chris Christie-63%-Yes-Governors are so interesting in terms of newsworthiness because they usually are bright, colorful, and often uninhibited public figures with a lot more power than their national coverage usually merits. In the case of Christie with Hurricane Sandy and his influence on the presidential race, a resounding yes. 

Bill Clinton-Abstain-He's relevant every year and every political news election. It would be difficult to separate 2012 Bill Clinton from 2011 Bill Clinton from 2004 Bill Clinton so I won't even try. 

Hillary Clinton-Yes-Being Seceretary of State is already high enough on the relevance factor, but throwing in the fact that she was under scrutiny for Bengazi as she was exiting and that became one of the hot button issues in the 2012 race qualifies her

Tom Coburn-29%-No, Sorry esteemed Senator buddy, I live in Washington and read Politico on my commute often and your name hasn't popped up enough to my liking

Bryan Cranston-72%-No, as a TV blogger who's been exposed to message board discussions and articles along the lines of "Breaking Bad: Best show of the year, best show of all time, or single greatest thing since sliced bread" for the past five years or so, I'm calling B.S. on timeliness. Bryan Cranston and Breaking Bad have both been mind-boggingly deserving of praise for the past five years. Nothing new here. Especially since the show doesn't officially end till this summer. If you want to give Breaking Bad a relevance bump upon its finale, at least wait until the 2014 issue. 

Andrew Cuomo-75%-No. Being Governor of the one of the most important states in the country and the one that, by far, commands the most news coverage, doesn't automatically make you man of the year, sorry. Also, I'm not buying nepotism as an excuse here either. 

Paula Deen (Popular TV cooking personality raising awareness about diabetes)-20%-No-I have only barely heard of you and seriously doubt you're having as much of an effect on our consumption as the great Jamie Oliver has. As Emeril Lagasse, Padma Lakshmi, Rachel Ray, Ted Allen and a billion others have demonstrated: I'm sure you'll be replaced with the next, best thing on the Food Network before this issue goes to press.

Jack Dorsey (Twitter creator and a founder and CEO of Square, a company that allows smartphone users to process credit-card payments through their mobile devices)-88%-Yes-Twitter is growing but the advent of Square really seals it

Kim Dotcom (Eccentric Internet legend and creator of the controversial file-sharing site Megaupload who has seen his influence rise along with his legal troubles)-74%-No-I'm philosophically against this person's movement of the internet being free and open source and intellectual property be damned, but then again being a bad guy doesn't disqualify you from being newsworthy (as noted with Assad). Instead, it's the fact that wanting to free the internet is nothing new.  If we're going to acknowledge Kim dotcom, are we going to give news attention to the guys selling bootleg DVDs on Times Square or the person who steals candy from the candy store?

Gabby Douglas-88%-Yes-As opposed to the first openly gay senator, being the first black Gold Medal gymnast seems relevant to me because that is one of the premiere sports in the Olympics. Her post-racial attitude towards the accomplishment was also discussion-provoking. She was also AP female athlete of the year and that's the sort of quantifiable evidence you can use to her case

Dr. James Downing (Scientific director at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where his Pediatric Cancer Genome Project is decoding the genetic drivers of childhood cancers)-98%-No-It's almost an abstain because I haven't heard of his project, but at the end of the day, I went with the argument against Robert Cantu and deemed him unnewsworthy because a lot of people are fighting cancer every year and I haven't read any newspaper headlines in the past 12 months that say "Cancer Cured!"

Lena Dunham-54%-No-This is based on the personal relevance angle here: I haven't seen her show which reflects how the landscape of TV has changed from 20 years ago. There are so many good must-see programs that practically no TV aficionado can see them all which dilutes the influence of any TV personality.

Daniel Ek (Founder and CEO of Spotify, the booming music-streaming service)-76%-No-When compares to twitter, square and kickstarter, I don't think Spotify makes the cut. First of all, Spotify's newness is diluted by the advent of Pandora which came first. Second of all, the crises revolving around the externalities of music sharing mostly happened in the 2000's. Youtube ads and itunes were the big heroes of the day.

Jimmy Fallon-66%-Marginal Yes-He's gotten more popular in the past couple years, his entertainment style is definitely new and relevant from a media-perspective (he incorporates facebook, the news, and twitter into his segments) and he's slotted to take over for Leno now so he's an even bigger player on the landscape.  

Mo Farrah-British track star-81%-Marginal Yes-I'm a beat writer for distance running so I think the guy's accomplishment is humongous when I realize how few people are able to double at the Olympics (especially in a British uniform). Aside from the personal perspective, I think as a hometown hero, he's also a somewhat of a big deal and star of the London Olympics

Melinda Gates-Abstain

Neil Gaiman (Prolific cult novelist with 1.8 million Twitter followes and an HBO show in the works)-96%-No-1.8 million Twitter followers was newsworthy outside the twittersphere in 2010 but not anymore. Voting yes for Neil would be breaking a long-standing journalistic rule: Don't give too much coverage to a guy who hasn't acomplished anything yet. An HBO show in the works isn't significant. The guy who made the now-cancelled "Sh%t My Parents Say" is a long-forgotten part of pop culture although he was a hot news item before the show aired

John Green (Teen fiction author and video blogger with legions of online fans)-95%-No-I'm on youtube a lot and have never heard of this guy and without a quantitative number of fans, I'm definitely in the no category. Again as with Neil, crossing over to mainstream media and succeeding wildly there is what would get my vote with internet media content wunderkinds. 

Roger Goodell (Commissioner of pro football, which remains America’s most popular sport despite a rising tide of safety concerns)-11%-As I mentioned before I think the safety concerns of football is very relevant and appropriate hot button topic.

Julian Fellowes-67%-Marginal Yes-I'm making a choice based on taste here between two shows I've never seen that Downtown Abbey is marginally worth talking about in the Time 100 Issue and voting Fellowes in.

Julia Gillard (Australian Prime Minister whose parliamentary speech about the opposition leader’s misogyny was heard around the world)-Abstain-Australia is either a G8 country or as important as one so if she was just elected Prime Minister I'd be more willing to consider her for a year, but the blurb doesn't say. A female head of state (see Brazil, Liberia, Argentina, Germany) is nothing new in this day of age and I'd expect that misogyny on the part of the opposition that's running against you isn't that new either, so nothing yes-worthy I can discern.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler-93%-Marginal Yes-Tina Fey has been a media darling and surely eligible for this list A LOT of successive years. I'm inclined to put her through this year because she's been packaged with Amy Poehler who could maker the list on her own and it's appropriate because the two hosted a talk show.

Gabby Giffords-81%-A resounding yes-Gabby Giffords is a humongous news story and deserving hero that could command even more coverage than she's currently getting. If she were on every front page of America every day, I'm not sure I would mind

Seth Meyers-Yes-The great thing about watching SNL stars rise is up in the cultural consciousness is that they're really nobodies when they start out. I'm sure that new cast additions like Tim Robinson, Vanessa Bayer, Bobby Moynihan and Aidy Bryant are among the least-searched names in the entirety of IMDB. I think Meyers is one of the most relevant stand-up comedians, most promising awards show hosts (did you see him at the ESPY's) and most people don't know he's the head writer of SNL

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