Bachmann joins elite crowd on Time's 100by Steven John, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Here's a quick quiz: What do Barack Obama, David Petraeus, Oprah Winfrey and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann have in common?
Give up? They all made the list of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world for 2011.
Time says the top 100 were chosen for their activism, innovation and achievement.
Bachmann said in a statement Thursday that she's humbled by the selection and "grateful to be named among such a variety of notable people affecting our world."
Time's Washington bureau chief, Michael Duffy, spoke with Steven Jobs of "All Things Considered" about what went into picking the top 100 list.
Steven John: This is an incredibly eclectic bunch from heads of state like Obama and Germany's Angela Merkel to entertainers Colin Firth and Sting to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. How do you compare accomplishments from such disparate fields of endeavor when compiling a list like this?
Michael Duffy: You can't. This isn't a scientific comparison. It's really, in many ways, an effort to pick the people who, across a variety of kinds of work and expertise, we think are driving the conversation, or just having an impact on our daily lives. So, it changes to some extent every year, and this is our snapshot for 2011.
John: There are just a handful of national political figures on the list; among them, House Speaker [John] Boehner, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Vice President [Joe] Biden. What makes Representative Michele Bachmann stand out from the rest of the Washington movers and shakers?
Duffy: What sort of surprised us is that she has captivated a portion of the Republican conversation, particularly as presidential sweepstakes begin. We wrestled with which one of the likely contenders to use, but she seemed to be taking up an unusual amount of the oxygen in that race, which kind of started off slowly and quietly. She's the one we chose. In six months it might look different, but that's the way it looks at the moment.
John: Representative Bachmann is the only potential Republican presidential contender on the list. Might some see this list as a tacit endorsement by the editors of Time?
Duffy: I've been at Time for 25 years. All kinds of people see all kinds of things in the pages of Time that we don't intend. But I tend to think not. I think that if they're close readers of the magazine that they'll see that we've done far more on other folks, and we'll just see how the race unfolds. I hope we're calling it right down the middle.
John: Minnesota's Sixth District congresswoman is among the more recognizable names on the list. A lot of the top 100 require a bit of Googling for many of us, [such as] game developer Peter Vesterbacka and economist Esther Duflo. How do some of the lesser known individuals come to the attentions of Time's editors?
Duffy: We actually have a large online poll that's quite popular, but inside the editorial section we have people all over the world, and they submit recommendations that we kind of wrestle with them, chew them over and try to mix it up. We have one of the most powerful men in India on the list whom I hadn't actually heard of until I was editing the copy. There are some other people who I even had to Google before I fully understood their significance.
John: The list is online now, and the magazine hits the stands Friday. Is there a particular ranking when we see the top 100 list?
Duffy: As daunting as it is to try something like this, trying to rank them would be more than we could bear. It's tough enough to try to narrow it down to 100, but to actually try to apply some pecking order when they're from such different disciplines and areas of expertise would be a bad dream, I think.
(Interview transcribed and edited by MPR reporter intern Anissa Stocks)
- All Things Considered, 04/21/2011, 5:55 p.m.