Media Person of the Year

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2007 Media Person(s) of the Year:
Writers on Strike

Participants in "the first Internet strike" are voted the most newsworthy figures in media.

Hollywood's striking movie and television writers received the most votes by far in an online poll by I Want Media to name the 2007 Media Person of the Year.

In a landslide victory, "Writers on Strike" attracted a whopping 56 percent of the total vote in the sixth annual contest. The writers beat out media figures like mogul Rupert Murdoch -- the first runner-up, with a mere 13 percent of the vote, and a favorite of several industry commentators. (One suspects that a number of the striking writers, with lots of spare time on their hands, may have done some voting for themselves.)





The 12,000-member Writers Guild of America announced the walkout on Nov. 5, after failing to come to terms with studio and network execs on a new contract over payment for when shows are distributed online and in other new media. One TV writer described the work stoppage as "the first Internet strike." Other industry observers saw the walkout as no less than "a struggle for power" over the digital future of the entertainment industry.

Readers of I Want Media nominated 10 candidates to this "media menagerie" and sent thousands of hits to the week-long Media Person of the Year poll. The winner last year was Stephen Colbert, the satirical cable-news pundit, who followed a real newsman, CNN's Anderson Cooper, in 2005.

This year's 10 candidates:

Conrad Black. The former newspaper magnate is the first media CEO to face prison time since Martha Stewart (I Want Media's 2002 Media Person of the Year). Black's sentence, set to be issued Dec. 10, is expected to be a bit stiffer -- a possible 35 years behind bars for "looting" millions of dollars from the former Hollinger International, the newspaper company whose holdings include the Chicago Sun-Times. Black, who was found guilty in July of obstruction of justice and mail fraud, has somehow acquired a disdain for the press. The disgraced media man says: "A substantial number of journalists are ignorant, lazy, opinionated and intellectually dishonest."

Google. No, Google is not a "person," per se. But the Internet behemoth seems to be taking on a life of its own, as it aims to extend its dominance in search advertising into newspapers, radio, cellphones, video games, and possibly television and magazines. Its YouTube video-sharing site already has Hollywood execs sweating, prompting "old media" this year to launch Hulu, their own video site. Google (which is a mere three years older than I Want Media) has a market cap of more than $200 billion, bigger than Time Warner, CBS, Viacom and Disney combined. Yet, Google execs keep telling their potential partners in traditional media: "Don't fear us."

Perez Hilton. The oft-sued celebrity gossip blogger (aka Mario Lavandeira) expanded his brand into television this year, with his "What Perez Sez" series of snarky specials for VH1. Meanwhile, the weekly page views for are said to have skyrocketed to some 35 million. In July, he boasted to I Want Media: "I have helped change the way people consume celebrity news." True, his bitchy blog "doodles" have influenced mainstream successes like AOL's Perez may have even managed to lower the bar of celebrity coverage set by infamous editor Bonnie Fuller (2003 Media Person of the Year). His message to Bonnie: "It's time to retire."

Don Imus. The shock jock put his foot in his mouth big time in April, when he described members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." The on-air remark sparked a firestorm of anti-racist protest. Within days, MSNBC dropped its simulcast, then CBS fired the radio star -- a fast and stunning fall. But there's a second act for this American life: Imus signed a deal with Citadel in October to return to the radio airwaves. CBS has been criticized as being too harsh for dropping Imus's show. The debate remains: Should Imus have been fired for his "objectionable expression," as described by CBS boss Les Moonves?

Joanne Lipman. The editor in chief of Conde Nast Portfolio may be the most scrutinized figure in the magazine world since Tina Brown. Lipman's moves have inspired nearly nonstop chatter among media reporters and bloggers since the launch of the business glossy in April. But why is Lipman, a Wall Street Journal veteran, such a star editor? Maybe it's because she's heading up a new franchise for Conde Nast that is expected to cost $100 million to get off the ground. Or perhaps it's due to the quick exit of several high-profile senior editors and contributors. Or maybe it's because, in this increasingly digital world, Portfolio could be the last big magazine launch.

Rupert Murdoch. Who had a bigger year than the kingpin of News Corp? Not only did Murdoch scoop up Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones -- an acquisition he described as one of his most important -- he also launched the Fox Business Network, a business-news channel that intends to trounce CNBC like his Fox News did with CNN. Murdoch, 76, is already seen as a "rock star" in Silicon Valley for his savvy purchase of MySpace. Possibly the only prize he's yet to nab is Media Person of the Year. (He's the only figure to have been a finalist in I Want Media's poll for the past six years but has never won.) Will 2007 be his year?

Rosie O'Donnell. The outspoken multimedia star had an eventful '07. In April, after just a few months as co-host of ABC's "The View," O'Donnell announced her plans to leave the hit daytime chatfest, sparking talk of trouble behind the scenes. Her candid nature may have made her "difficult," but she was also credited with giving the show a big ratings boost. O'Donnell publicly feuded with Donald Trump, published a tell-all, "Celebrity Detox," and came close to getting her own prime-time talk show on MSNBC. She wrote on her blog about her MSNBC near miss: "My career as a pundit is over b4 it began." One suspects Rosie's punditry career is far from over.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. The publisher of the New York Times oversaw a year of significant change. The newspaper company relocated to a dazzling Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper, merging the Times's print and digital newsrooms. The move was followed swiftly by a price hike for the flagship paper -- as it shrank in physical size by an inch and a half. The Times-controlling Sulzberger family beat back activist shareholder Morgan Stanley, ending a long battle over the dual-class share system that keeps the clan in charge. All of the activity hopefully toughened up Sulzberger for his next big fight: Rupert Murdoch plans to redo the Wall Street Journal to take on the Times.

Writers on Strike. More than 12,000 Writers Guild of America members went on strike in early November, the first walkout of screenwriters since 1988. Their beef: more money for movies and television shows distributed via the Internet and wireless devices. The core problem: entertainment content companies have yet to figure out how to value new media. (Ex-Disney boss Michael Eisner quipped that writers should instead strike "in three years," when the profit from digital content won't be "nonexistent.") In the meantime, the stoppage has threatened to bring Hollywood to its knees, estimated to cost the Los Angeles economy some $20 million per day.

Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook boy turned down a nearly $1 billion offer from Yahoo to buy his fast-growing social-networking site. That may have been a smart decision. In October, the 23-year old founder/CEO sold a 1.6% stake to Microsoft for $240 million, valuing the startup at a whopping $15 billion. With Facebook's growth rate easily outpacing that of rival MySpace, can anything stop Zuck's 3-year-old "social utility"? A new advertising program unveiled in November quickly provoked gripes from users who were surprised to find data about their online purchases was being forwarded to others. The move has been called "Facebook's biggest gamble."

Don't see your choice? Submit your nomination. Be sure to include a brief explanation as to why your candidate deserves to be recognized. Comments may be posted on the site.




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