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2010 Media Person of the Year:
Julian Assange


The controversial founder of WikiLeaks is named the most noteworthy figure in media.


Julian Assange, the founder and editor in chief of WikiLeaks, is the 2010 Media Person of the Year, according to the ninth annual online competition held by I Want Media.

Readers and media pundits suggested 10 candidates for the week-long contest to name the figure who had the most impact on the industry landscape during the past year. The founders of Twitter won the competition in 2009; Arianna Huffington claimed the honor in 2008.


2009: TWITTER GUYS

2008: ARIANNA HUFFINGTON

2007: WRITERS ON STRIKE

2006: STEPHEN COLBERT

2005: ANDERSON COOPER

2004: JON STEWART

2003: BONNIE FULLER

2002: MARTHA STEWART
Assange and his "whistle-blower" website dominated headlines in late 2010, thanks to their release of confidential and news-breaking documents. The attention likely helped the Internet activist rack up 52% of the vote in I Want Media's contest. The first runner-up, with 10% of the vote, was Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who shook up the media world with his new iPad tablet computer.

At a Media Person of the Year panel discussion to help pick the candidates, New York Times media columnist David Carr noted of Assange: "You have to give him credit for exercising global leverage over the conversation by simply taking a big heave and putting it out there in strategic ways. ... You don't have to be a journalist to profoundly affect the way journalism operates."

This year's 10 finalists:


JULIAN ASSANGE. The WikiLeaks founder jettisoned to global fame, angered world leaders and helped shift the media balance of power to create "a new kind of investigative journalism." His website's release of classified documents demonstrated how the Information Age has made accessing confidential data much easier and keeping secrets much more difficult. According to Assange: "It's our goal to achieve a more just society."




GLENN BECK. The Fox News conservative pundit and self-described rodeo clown rose to a new level of influence, with his "Restoring Honor" religious-patriotic rally in Washington, D.C. attracting thousands and further blurring news, politics and entertainment. The event inspired liberal media critics and fellow rodeo clowns Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (both past Media Persons of the Year) to host a D.C. rally of their own.




TINA BROWN. The acclaimed former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker created an industry hullabaloo with the news that her current project, the 2-year-old website The Daily Beast, planned to merge with the venerable Newsweek. While some observers expressed skepticism that the union of the two money-losing properties would thrive, others saw the "dynamic" Brown as possessing all the right stuff to "create a viable brand."




NICK DENTON. Gawker Media's boss was deemed one of the "most powerful people in New York," as the blog publisher continued to skewer the establishment and create buzz. Denton scored coups (of sorts) by paying for a prototype for Apple's new iPhone and photos of NFL star Brett Favre's private parts. He also proclaimed that Gawker's forthcoming new design template would herald the "evolution" of the blog form itself.




JERSEY SHORE GANG. Snooki and The Situation -- Media Persons of the Year? The cast of MTV's ratings-smash reality show has already been named as among Barbara Walters' "Most Fascinating People" of 2010. Despite widespread criticism, the group of hard-partying young Italian-Americans became a pop-culture phenom. Significantly, MTV owner Viacom admitted that Snooki et al. gave a big boost to the media giant's bottom line.




STEVE JOBS. Apple's CEO unveiled the iPad at the start of the year, and the device was instantly hailed as a revolutionary new way to watch TV and movies, as well as a possible savior for struggling newspapers and magazines. Jobs described his creation as no less than "magical." The iPad even inspired Rupert Murdoch to "dream up" a tablet-only publication. Capital New York has already declared 2010 "the year of the iPad."




RANDY MICHAELS. Tribune's "nontraditional" CEO was ousted after his reported crass behavior became a dark sideshow to his bankrupt company's financial struggles. During his tenure, Michaels faced charges of nurturing a "frat house" culture, shocking people with senior execs' use of profane banter. Meanwhile, the company's debts reached $13 billion, making it the largest bankruptcy in the history of the American media industry.




RUPERT MURDOCH. The king of News Corp., perhaps more than anyone else in media, remained doggedly determined to make people pay for digital news. After erecting online paywalls around his British newspapers, the media tycoon developed a bold plan to create a daily "newspaper" for the iPad and other tablet devices. News Corp.'s "No. 1 most exciting" project reportedly will deliver offerings to "make everyone googly-eyed."




SARAH PALIN. The onetime U.S. vice-presidential candidate became better known as a "media person" in 2010. In January, Palin started providing political commentary to Fox News under a multi-year contract. Her second book, "America by Heart," quickly followed her first title up the best-seller lists. She even began hosting her own TV show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska." Plus, Palin's "lamestream media" attacks became TV-news staples.




MARK ZUCKERBERG. Facebook's co-founder and CEO was already named Media Person of the Year at this year's Cannes Advertising Festival. He also won the No. 1 spot on Vanity Fair's 2010 New Establishment list. As his creation racked up millions of more "friends," Zuck became immortalized in "The Social Network" movie. Citing his undeniable media appeal, Gawker's Nick Denton dubbed him "the Angelina Jolie of the Internet."





RUNNERS-UP:

OPRAH WINFREY wrapped up her long-running daytime talk show in preparation of the launch of her own TV network ... STEVE BURKE became set to emerge as a media kingpin as Comcast neared its takeover of NBC ... REED HASTINGS expanded Netflix's mail-order DVD rental service to delivering video online ... CONAN O'BRIEN returned to late-night TV, bolstered by a first-of-its-kind social media strategy.




The Media Person of the Year panel discussion at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute on December 6 was interrupted by a small building fire, forcing a brief evacuation. I Want Media wishes to thank participants
David Carr, Henry Blodget, Lloyd Grove and Rachel Sklar for their smart commentary and for being such good sports.







 

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