Elon Musk on the cover of TIME magazine
Source: TIME Twitter

Who Picks the TIME Person of the Year and When Is It Announced?


Dec. 13 2021, Published 11:17 a.m. ET

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, SpaceX, and several other companies, is the TIME Person of the Year for 2021. Who picks the TIME Person of the Year?

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Each year, the editors at TIME pick an individual or group who was most influential throughout the year. The selectee appears on the cover of the magazine in December.

elon musk time person of year
Source: Getty Images
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A "Person of the Year" has been selected since 1927.

TIME started identifying a newsmaker of the year in 1927. At first, the profiles were called the “Man of the Year” or “Woman of the Year,” but the moniker changed to “Person of the Year” in 1999.

The Person of the Year’s influence on the world can be for better or worse. For example, German dictator Adolf Hitler, Russian dictator Joseph Stalin, and Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini have all been selected.

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Almost every U.S. president has been a Person of the Year selectee at least once, except for Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Gerald Ford. In 2020, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris shared the honor.

On some occasions, TIME editors decide to profile a class of people or inanimate objects for the Person of the Year recognition. For example, the honor went to Middle Americans in 1969, American Women in 1975, and The Endangered Earth in 1988.

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No one is more influential than Elon Musk, TIME says.

“Person of the Year is a marker of influence, and few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and potentially life off Earth too,” writes TIME editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal. “In 2021, Musk emerged not just as the world’s richest person but also as perhaps the richest example of a massive shift in our society.”

TIME credited Musk for “disrupting multiple industries across two decades.” Besides electric car company Tesla and space exploration company SpaceX, Musk has started a number of other companies including neurotechnology company Neuralink and internet company Starlink.

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In the Person of the Year announcement posted on YouTube, TIME national political correspondent Molly Ball said that Musk has become ever-present across many different sectors.

“It’s really hard to escape Elon Musk’s dominance over so many things in American life right now,” Ball said. “With a single tweet, he can control the stock market or the value of various different cryptocurrencies.”

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Source: Twitter

The TIME Person of the Year reader poll nominee is separate.

The TIME Person of the Year isn't to be confused with the TIME Person of the Year Reader Poll recipient. In 1998, the news publication started to poll its readers on who they would choose to be the Person of the Year. The poll’s outcome doesn't have an impact on the editors’ selection for Person of the Year.

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro won the 2021 reader poll for TIME Person of the Year. Bolsonaro faces increased disapproval over how he handled the economy and for downplaying the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, TIME reports.

Of the 9 million votes cast in the TIME reader poll, Bolsonaro received 24 percent of the vote. Former U.S. President Donald Trump came in second with 9 percent of the vote, and frontline healthcare workers were third with just over 6 percent.


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