TIME's Editors Talk About Why Taylor Swift Is TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year

Summary notes created by Deciphr AI



In a special bonus episode of "Person of the Week of the Year," host Charlotte Alter delves into the selection of Taylor Swift as TIME's 2023 Person of the Year with Editor-in-Chief Sam Jacobs and Senior Executive Editor K Conif. The episode explores the nearly century-old tradition of the award, highlighting the extensive debate and consideration process that involves the entire TIME staff. Sam and Kelly discuss the criteria for the choice, which is the individual or group that most influenced the year's events, and detail the unique cultural impact and omnipresence of Swift in 2023. They also touch upon the rarity of individual women and younger people receiving this recognition, placing Swift's selection within a broader conversation about power, influence, and the importance of cultural figures in shaping society. The episode concludes with a look at other major stories featured in the Person of the Year issue, offering listeners an inside look at the making of one of TIME's most significant annual decisions.

Summary Notes

Times 2023 Person of the Year: Taylor Swift

  • Taylor Swift has been named Times 2023 Person of the Year.
  • The selection process of the Person of the Year is an annual tradition that began in 1927.
  • The Person of the Year is chosen based on their influence over the past 12 months, shaping headlines for better or worse.
  • The decision-making involves a team of editors and a series of meetings to debate and decide on the most influential person or group.

"as you've probably heard by now times 2023 person of the year is Taylor Swift"

This quote introduces the subject of the podcast, announcing Taylor Swift as the selected Person of the Year for 2023.

History and Evolution of the Award

  • The first Person of the Year was Charles Lindbergh in 1927.
  • Originally called "Man of the Year," the title was changed in 1999 to "Person of the Year."
  • The franchise is nearly as old as Time magazine itself, which started in 1923.

"first person of the year was Charles Lindberg"

This quote provides historical context for the Person of the Year award, indicating its long-standing tradition.

Selection Process

  • The process involves a significant meeting in September where Time staff debate potential candidates.
  • The debate is passionate, with staff members making strong cases for different candidates.
  • A small group of editors, along with the senior executive editor, eventually narrow down the candidates and form reporting teams to explore the options.
  • News events can shift the focus and decision on the Person of the Year, as seen in 2017 with the Harvey Weinstein story.

"Kelly and I have spent a lot of the last year debating who the person of the year should be"

This quote explains the collaborative and extensive process involved in debating and selecting the Person of the Year.

Taylor Swift's Selection

  • Taylor Swift's selection was seen as a momentum shift sometime in the fall.
  • She has been influential in the past but stood out significantly this year.
  • The selection was unusual as it came from a wide range of Time staff, not just those who cover culture or music.

"the momentum was moving in One Direction and that was the one and only Taylor Allison Swift"

This quote signifies the decision-making moment where Taylor Swift became the clear choice for Person of the Year.

Internal Significance of the Award at Time

  • The choice of Person of the Year is meaningful to the staff at Time magazine.
  • The announcement is a moment when the magazine becomes top of mind worldwide.
  • It reflects Time's opportunity to make a statement about the year.

"it is the moment when as a magazine we become top of mind for the planet"

This quote emphasizes the global impact and internal significance of the Person of the Year announcement for Time magazine.

Personal Experiences of the Editors

  • The process can be stressful and fear-inducing, especially for those in senior positions.
  • The 2023 selection was the first for Sam Jacobs as editor-in-chief and for Kelly Conniff as senior executive editor.
  • The responsibility of the decision carries weight, as it is a moment that can define Time's perspective on the year.

"much more stress more fear."

This quote reflects the personal pressure and intensity experienced by the editors during the selection process for Person of the Year.

Person of the Year Selection Process

  • Charlotte Alter and Kelly Conniff have worked together for over a decade at Time magazine.
  • They discuss the anxiety and excitement of selecting the Person of the Year as news and stories evolve.
  • The selection reflects Time's view on power, influence, values, success, and societal importance.

"the amount of anxiety that you have over the course of the Fall as the news changes and also as the characters who we were following their stories change that is a bit of a roller coaster to experience"

This quote explains the dynamic and often stressful process of choosing the Person of the Year, highlighting the changing news landscape and the evolving stories of potential candidates.

Taylor Swift's Influence and Legacy

  • Time magazine places Taylor Swift in the context of past Persons of the Year, emphasizing her influence and impact.
  • Swift's recognition is seen as a continuation of Time's legacy while also being a creative and fresh narrative.
  • The comparison of Swift's 2014 cover story to Businessweek's demonstrates Time's commitment to quality reporting and storytelling.

"we think Taylor Swift belongs in the same conversation as everyone who preceded her with this recognition I think is really important."

The quote signifies the importance Time magazine places on Taylor Swift's inclusion in the legacy of influential figures who have been recognized as Person of the Year, suggesting her impact is on par with past honorees.

The Cultural Phenomenon of Taylor Swift

  • Taylor Swift's presence in 2020 was likened to discussing politics or the weather, indicating her ubiquity.
  • Despite some dismissing pop culture, Swift's reach was undeniable, touching people through concerts, movies, headlines, and public appearances.
  • Swift's art resonates on a personal level, with fans appreciating her relatable storytelling and emotional connection.

"talking about Taylor Swift this year was like talking about politics or the weather."

The quote captures the pervasive nature of Taylor Swift's influence in 2020, comparing her to unavoidable and universal topics of conversation.

Taylor Swift's Artistic Impact and Fan Base

  • Swift writes in a way that connects broadly with audiences, offering songs for various personal experiences.
  • Her fan base, known as "Swifties," spans all walks of life and has grown with her over nearly two decades.
  • The example of Paul Schrader, a director in his 70s, illustrates the diverse and devoted following Swift has cultivated.

"she makes people feel things you know she writes about her experiences that's something that her fans really love and value but she also writes in a really kind of General relatable way"

This quote highlights the emotional impact of Taylor Swift's music on her fans, emphasizing the general relatability and personal connection they feel with her work.

Cultural Impact vs. Traditional Power

  • Time's recognition of Taylor Swift underscores the importance of cultural impact over traditional forms of power.
  • 2020 saw the limitations of hard power, such as government dysfunction and global conflicts.
  • Swift's success and omnipresence offer a counterpoint to hard power, showcasing the transformative power of creativity and culture.

"what we see in her is someone whose achievements... transcended her own arena in such a way that you know to use Sam's phrase that she was like the weather I mean she was just omnipresent in our world and in our lives"

The quote reflects on Taylor Swift's extraordinary success and cultural omnipresence in 2020, likening her impact to an inescapable natural phenomenon.

Role of Culture in Society

  • The Person of the Year selection argues for the significance of culture in shaping our lives, akin to the influence of innovators like Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Musk.
  • The argument posits that hard power's ultimate purpose is to create a space where soft power, like culture, can thrive.
  • Swift's cultural achievements are viewed as transformative and disruptive, similar to the impact of tech entrepreneurs.

"culture plays a similar role in our lives and in fact that the purpose of hard power is to create a space where this sort of soft power can exist"

This quote encapsulates the argument that cultural figures like Taylor Swift hold a power comparable to traditional forms of hard power, and that society should value the space created for cultural influence to flourish.

Person of the Year Significance

  • The concept of "Person of the Year" traditionally includes influential leaders such as US presidents, Russian/Soviet leaders, and popes.
  • The selection reflects the impact on humanity and society.
  • Taylor Swift's selection emphasizes the importance of cultural figures in shaping society.
  • Culture is recognized as a major accomplishment, especially when other institutions are losing trust.

"4 US presidents five leaders of Russia or the Soviet Union three popes these are the people who we see as person of the year and I've spent the entire fall with the person of the Year Wikipedia page open on my computer just looking at the faces who are the people who sit on those covers who do we look at and what have they done and the whole point the whole purpose of organizing governments and building businesses was ultimately to create a space for Humanity and the most creative most exciting most unifying space for Humanity that we saw this year was created by Taylor Swift."

The quote explains the historical context of the "Person of the Year" title, typically awarded to prominent political and religious leaders, and contrasts this with the selection of Taylor Swift, a cultural icon, highlighting the shift toward recognizing cultural impact alongside traditional power structures.

Taylor Swift's Cultural Impact

  • Taylor Swift has transcended borders and united people through her music and storytelling.
  • Her ability to create a "Super Bowl every night" is unique and possibly unprecedented.
  • Swift has actively challenged major tech figures and industry executives, showing her influence and willingness to stand up against powerful entities.

"Here is someone who rolls up into town and builds a Super Bowl every night wherever she goes someone who's transcending borders and someone who's doing it through her own story and seeing that happen is just a phenomenon that I don't think we've seen before."

This quote highlights Taylor Swift's ability to create significant cultural events with her performances, likening each to the magnitude of a Super Bowl, emphasizing her unique impact on culture and her role in shaping the industry through her personal narrative.

Taylor Swift vs. Industry Giants

  • Taylor Swift has a history of confronting influential figures in technology and the music industry.
  • Her actions demonstrate a rare willingness in the cultural sphere to actively bring about change rather than just speaking about it.

"If you look throughout her history she has gone up against Tim Cook she's gone up against Daniel e. she's gone up against record Executives the music industry and there's not actually a lot of people in culture who do that."

The quote provides examples of Taylor Swift's confrontations with powerful industry leaders, underscoring her proactive approach to shaping her career and the music industry, setting her apart from other cultural figures who may voice opinions but not take such direct action.

Cultural Coverage and Importance

  • As the culture editor at Time, one observes what the public cares about.
  • Featuring cultural figures on the cover signifies their importance and influence on society.
  • Taylor Swift's multiple appearances on Time's cover reflect her general impact and the public's interest in culture.

"When you do that with culture not only do the figures that you're covering feel that way. but it signifies to the larger Generations like what's happening."

The quote discusses the significance of covering cultural figures in media, noting that it both acknowledges the individuals' impact and signals their relevance to broader societal trends and interests, especially to younger generations.

Globalization of Culture

  • The globalization of culture has led to increased consumption of international media.
  • Companies like Netflix have contributed to this trend but also faced criticism for their impact on culture.
  • Taylor Swift continued to thrive even when traditional media outlets faced challenges, demonstrating her adaptability and influence.

"The true globalization of culture has been fascinating too how many more shows do people watch that are not in their native language now the reason we do that is because of companies like Netflix."

This quote reflects on the changing landscape of cultural consumption, where audiences are more open to international content, largely due to the influence of streaming platforms like Netflix.

Taylor Swift's Autonomous Approach

  • Taylor Swift has consistently taken control of her work, bypassing traditional industry channels.
  • Her decision to produce a concert movie independently exemplifies her autonomous approach to her career.

"When she decided she was going to make a concert movie She bypassed the studios she bypassed the streamers and she did it herself which is something that she's done time and time again."

The quote illustrates Taylor Swift's tendency to operate independently within the industry, making strategic choices that allow her to maintain control over her creative output and directly engage with her audience.

Taylor Swift's Universal Presence

  • Taylor Swift's influence extends beyond her fan base, affecting even those who are not fans.
  • Her ubiquity in popular culture means that her work is encountered by a wide audience, regardless of personal taste.

"Even if you were trying to avoid her you could not you may not like her music. but I bet you were in line at CVS and you heard anti-hero and probably hummed along whether you liked it or not."

The quote conveys the idea that Taylor Swift's presence in popular culture is so pervasive that it reaches people universally, making her music and influence inescapable even for those who do not consider themselves fans.

Historical Parallels and Cultural Indifference

  • Comparisons are drawn between Taylor Swift and past cultural icons like Elvis Presley and the Beatles.
  • The impact of these figures persists despite initial mixed reactions from the public.
  • The Person of the Year should provoke a reaction, indicating their significance in the current cultural landscape.

"There were plenty of people who didn't like Elvis Presley plenty of people who didn't like like the Beatles people who didn't like Madonna people who didn't like Michael Jackson."

The quote places Taylor Swift in the context of other cultural icons who, despite facing criticism during their rise, have left an undeniable mark on history, suggesting that strong public reactions, positive or negative, are indicative of a figure's lasting influence.

Taylor Swift and Person of the Year History

  • Taylor Swift's selection as Person of the Year is notable as she is one of few individual women and younger individuals to receive this recognition.
  • Her selection reflects a generational shift and challenges traditional perceptions of power and influence.

"In the last 50 years only four people who have been named individual person of year have been born since 1973 it's Taylor Greta zalinsky Zuckerberg that's it everyone else has been born prior to 50 years ago."

This quote underscores the rarity of younger individuals and women being recognized as Person of the Year, highlighting Taylor Swift's selection as a significant departure from the norm and a reflection of changing attitudes towards who can wield influence in society.

Recognition of Upstarts in Technology

  • The culture is more comfortable recognizing young innovators in the tech industry.
  • A young man in his twenties can significantly impact the world with inventions or companies.
  • This is exemplified by the success stories of tech entrepreneurs who reshape the world.

"We're more comfortable recognizing the upstart and those are in certain Realms like technology where we're familiar with the idea that a 24-year-old typically man can reshape the world through Facebook or through whatever his invention or his company is doing."

This quote emphasizes the societal acceptance and recognition of young male entrepreneurs in technology as changemakers, often becoming influential figures by creating platforms like Facebook.

Taylor Swift's Career Longevity

  • Taylor Swift is young for the history of her franchise but a veteran in her industry.
  • Swift has been in her career for 17 years, starting her first album release at age 15 or 16.
  • Her first interview with Time was in 2009, discussing her views on missing college for her career.

"This is someone who's been doing this a really long time someone whose career we've been watching her first interview with time was in 2009 uh you can watch it on YouTube 18 19 years old talking about her favorite bands and what she thinks about missing college and that she doesn't want to pass up this touring experience this is someone who is way into her career even if only at the beginning of her life."

The quote reflects on Taylor Swift's early start and the dedication to her music career, which has spanned nearly two decades, and her perspective on choosing her career over college as seen in her early interviews.

Swift's Influence and Industry Longevity

  • Swift has been described as the biggest entertainer in the world for nearly a decade.
  • Her ability to maintain her position in the entertainment industry is notable due to its rarity.
  • She has re-recorded albums that have been successful upon re-release.

"It's incredible to think about longevity which is not something that the entertainment industry usually rewards so the fact that she's been able to do this and not only do this but kind of maintain her position is incredible."

This quote highlights Taylor Swift's exceptional staying power in the entertainment industry, an industry that does not typically reward longevity, and her continued relevance and dominance as a major entertainer.

Swift's Re-recording Success and Fan Base Power

  • Swift's re-recorded albums have been successful, often outperforming their original releases.
  • Her album "Lover" and the song "Cruel Summer" gained renewed attention and success years after the initial release.
  • The success of "Cruel Summer" on her tour underscores the power of her fan base and the democratization of the music industry.

"It's also kind of this wonderful rejoinder to a music industry that has long made decisions for you this is democracy in action people are choosing what actually is entertaining them and making them feel good it's not some dude in a record label office in LA or New York saying this will be the song of the summer she just made it happen."

This quote illustrates the shift in how music success is determined, with fans rather than industry executives driving what becomes popular, exemplified by the resurgence of Swift's song "Cruel Summer" through fan support.

Time's Person of the Year Package

  • Time's Person of the Year package includes profiles of individuals who have shaped the year.
  • The package features an exclusive profile of Taylor Swift and other influential figures.
  • Sam Altman is featured as CEO of the Year for leading an influential company.
  • The package includes a photo essay on civil society in Israel and Gaza following the October 7th Hamas massacre.
  • The collection of journalism showcases the significant events and people of 2023.

"Every year we look not just at the person of the year but at the people who have shaped the year that was this is an amazing piece of reporting we have out today and and on newss if you want to pick it up and on time.com we have not just this exclusive profile with Taylor Swift she hasn't talked to anyone like this since 2019."

This quote explains that Time's Person of the Year package goes beyond a single individual, encompassing a range of stories and profiles that reflect the influential people and events of the year, including an in-depth profile of Taylor Swift.

Behind the Scenes at Person of the Year

  • The discussion provides insight into the decision-making process for Time's Person of the Year.
  • The choice reflects on broader historical trends in power and influence.
  • The Person of the Year issue is a culmination of significant journalistic efforts.

"It's so great to hear about sort of what goes into making this choice and also how this Choice fits into the broader history of power and influence that time has been chronicling for almost almost 100 years."

This quote offers a glimpse into the considerations and historical context that inform the selection of Time's Person of the Year, highlighting the publication's long-standing tradition of documenting power and influence.

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