(ANDREW ECCLES ~ Time Inc.)
The annual honor for 2006 went to each and every one of us, as Time cited the shift from institutions to individuals -- citizens of the new digital democracy, as the magazine put it. The winners this year were anyone using or creating content on the World Wide Web.
"If you choose an individual, you have to justify how that person affected millions of people," said Richard Stengel, who took over as Time's managing editor earlier this year. "But if you choose millions of people, you don't have to justify it to anyone."
The magazine did cite 26 "People Who Mattered," from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il to Pope Benedict XVI to the troika of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
And Stengel said if the magazine had decided to go with an individual, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the likely choice. "It just felt to me a little off selecting him," Stengel said.
The 2006 "Person of the Year" package hits newsstands Monday. The cover shows a white keyboard with a mirror for a computer screen where buyers can see their reflection.
It was not the first time the magazine went away from naming an actual person for its "Person of the Year." In 1966, the 25-and-under generation was cited; in 1975, American women were named; and in 1982, the computer was chosen.
"I always love it when it's a person -- and it is a person, not a computer or something like that," Stengel said. "We just felt there wasn't a single person who embodied this phenomenon."
Last year's winners were Bill and Melinda Gates and rock star Bono, who were cited for their charitable work and activism aimed at reducing global poverty and improving world health.