(Clockwise from upper left) TIME magazine covers from May 7, 1945; July 25, 1969; December 31, 1999; September 14, 2001; and April 21, 2003.
TIME is a weekly American news magazine, roughly similar to Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. A European edition (TIMEeurope, formerly known as TIMEatlantic) is produced out of London covering the Middle East, Africa and (from 2003) Latin America, while an Asian edition (TIMEasia) is based in Hong Kong.
TIME hit newsstands for the first time on March 2, 1923, preceding both of its major competitors and virtually inventing the weekly news magazine. It was co-founded in 1923 by Briton Hadden and Henry Luce. Hadden died young, and Luce became the dominant man at TIME and a major figure in the history of 20th century media. Hadden was a rather carefree figure, who liked to tease Luce and saw TIME as something important but also fun. That accounts for its tone, which many people still criticize as too light for serious news and more suited to its heavy coverage of celebrities (including politicians), the entertainment industry, and pop culture.
Luce was the son of a Presbyterian missionary, and he took his Presbyterianism seriously. It meant to him not fun but hard work, indifference to wealth and position, and duty: both duty to country and duty to his readers. He had grown up without the wealth of the other students at Hotchkiss School and at Yale University, which made him feel like an outsider.
TIME has always had its own writing style, parodied by Wolcott Gibbs this way (long before the Jedi master Yoda was created): "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind. Where it would end, knows God."
TIME became part of Time Warner in 1989 when Warner Communications and Time, Inc. merged. Since 2000, the magazine has been part of AOL Time Warner, which was subsequently renamed back to Time Warner in 2003.
The magazine's most famous feature over its 80 years has been the annual Man of the Year — recently renamed Person of the Year — contest, in which TIME recognizes the individual or group of individuals who have had the biggest effect on the year's news. Despite the title, the recipient is not necessarily a human. In the past, even ideas and machines have received the honor.
TIME's Person of the Year 2001 — in the wake of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks — was New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. It was a controversial result; Giuliani was certainly deserving, but many thought that the rules of selection ("the individual or group of individuals who have had the biggest effect on the year's news") made the obvious choice Osama bin Laden. They cited previous choices such as Adolf Hitler demonstrating that Man of the Year did not necessarily mean "Best Human Being of the Year".
According to stories in respected newspapers, TIME's editors anguished over the choice, fearing that selecting the al-Qaeda leader might offend readers (and advertisers). Adding a wrinkle to the equation was the fact that bin Laden had already appeared on its covers on October 1, November 12, and November 26. Many readers expressed dissatisfaction at the idea of seeing his face on the cover again. In the end, Giuliani's selection led some to criticize that TIME had chickened out.