Behind the Scenes of TIME’s 2021 Person of the Year Issue

Lucy Feldman, our colleague and 2021 Entertainers of the Year Olivia Rodrigo made a comment that caught my attention. Rodrigo, the 18-year-old pop sensation whose music has won over audiences of all ages, “has a gift for picking the best of the past,” Lucy notes, “and finding just the right way to situate it in the present.”

It’s a theme that resonates throughout this issue. Simone Biles was the best gymnast ever and Athlete Of The Year. She took sport and the world forward by using her star at the Tokyo Olympics in order to advocate for mental health and ensure that athletes are not measured only by their wins or losses. We created Heroes of the Year to honor the many scientific contributions that led to the creation of the fast, effective vaccines that have saved so many lives from COVID-19. The mRNA vaccines available today are built on the pioneering insights of the past—and will become the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Even Elon Musk’s spacefaring adventures are a direct line from the very first Person of the Year (then called Man of the Year), Charles Lindbergh, whom the editors selected in 1927 to commemorate his historic first solo transatlantic airplane flight over the Atlantic.
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Elon Musk poses for a photograph at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility, Texas on December 3, 2021.
Kelia Anne captures Olivia Rodrigo, L.A. November 22, 2021.

TIME has had a great year. It was a year where we have used the lessons of the past and forge new ones. Like many others, we created a new approach to work that combines both virtual and real offices. TIME100 Companies joined the TIME100 family, and we launched a series of TIME100 talks. With a Glasgow gathering for COP26 which brought together global climate-change experts, we returned to live events. Visions of Equity was a project that focused on racial justice. It was led by newsroom staff of color. With TIMEPieces (an NFT platform for artists), we helped guide our industry to the next stage of the Internet. Our digital offerings have been expanded with over 100,000 people subscribing to full access to our website. Our Emmy-winning TIME Studios division, which has been around for two years, continues to provide new home to our journalism with over 20 television and film projects scheduled to air on top streaming platforms and networks.

The Time staff meets virtually for the Person of the year special issue.

The Person of the Year represents for us an important capstone of our previous twelve months. It began with our international staff gathering to discuss the various nominations in early autumn. This year, however, we received an inspirational addition. Maria Ressa 2018, the 2018 Person of The Year was there to kick off the process. Ressa is a journalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize 2021 for her brave reporting on the Philippines.

Since Lindbergh was featured on the cover, the ambitions of the franchise have grown significantly. It has now become an amazing staff effort that has been touched by almost everyone at TIME. Ben Goldberger, executive editor, led the editorial committee, which includes Naina Bjekal, Jenna Caldwell and Elizabeth Murray. “We spent a lot of time thinking about the year through the lens of re-emergence and re-evaluation,” says Ben, “which made it a particularly fascinating process.”

TIME thanks you all for being part of our TIME family. We wish you the very best for the future.


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