Behind the Scenes of TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year Issue

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Sam Jacobs is Editor in Chief at TIME where he leads TIME’s global newsroom and its journalism across all platforms. Since joining TIME in 2013, Jacobs has held a variety of senior editorial leadership positions. Previously, he was national political correspondent at Reuters, associate editor at Newsweek and staff reporter for The Daily Beast. His writing has appeared in the Boston Globe and New York Observer.

This past September, our editors and reporters gathered to debate who should be TIME’s Person of the Year. The annual staff conversation is both entertaining and contentious, as we argue about which one person or group of people, of the nearly 8 billion alive today, had the most influence, for good or ill, on the year. From that first conversation, teams of reporters set out to cover the most promising candidates. The result is the issue you hold in your hands, and the words, photographs, and videos that appear on your screens. 

Sam Lansky, the writer of this year’s Person of the Year profile of Taylor Swift, has known the singer for over a decade through his work as an editor. Earlier this fall he visited with Swift at home for her first in-depth conversation with a journalist in nearly four years. With her three Person of the Year covers, photographed by Inez and Vinoodh, Swift makes her fourth, fifth, and sixth appearances on our cover. It’s been 14 years since Swift’s first interview with TIME, when the 19-year-old took questions from her tour bus on Hollywood Boulevard, brushing off concerns about trading a college experience for touring as a musician. “No matter what path you choose,” she said, “you’re going to miss something, and I don’t want to miss this.”

Read More: The Inspiration Behind Inez and Vinoodh’s Taylor Swift TIME Person of the Year Covers

For the 2023 CEO of the Year story, Naina Bajekal and Billy Perrigo visited San Francisco to meet with Sam Altman; he spoke with TIME three times in November, both before and after Altman was removed from and returned to his position leading the world’s most influential AI company. Their profile, accompanied by portraits created by photographer Joe Pugliese, offers a detailed accounting of those tumultuous days.

Sean Gregory has written or co-written all of TIME’s Athlete of the Year profiles since we first created the recognition in 2019. For this year’s edition, Sean interviewed and profiled Lionel Messi, one of the most successful soccer players of all time. The accompanying cover image was created by illustrator (and soccer fan) Neil Jamieson.

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Read More: Behind the Scenes of TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year Issue

Also for this issue, Karl Vick traveled to Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre. Karl—who was previously TIME’s bureau chief in Israel—and London-based staff writer Yasmeen Serhan set out to find individuals who have made a difference supporting fellow citizens since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas War. Magnum photographer Moises Saman took portraits to accompany their stories.

Photography for the issue was overseen by Katherine Pomerantz, Dilys Ng, Sangsuk Sylvia Kang, and Kara Milstein; video by Justine Simons and Alex Robson; art direction by Chelsea Kardokus, Chrissy Dunleavy, and D.W. Pine, who has now created 14 years of Person of the Year covers. Digital-audience strategy was led by Samantha Cooney, with support by Meg Zukin. Liz Murray coordinated digital production. And, working alongside Lori Fradkin, Kelly Conniff—who is marking her 11th year at TIME—oversaw the entire project. “This issue demonstrates how many shapes influence can take,” Kelly said. “To be able to include news-making interviews with Altman, Messi, and Swift, three of the most captivating people in the world, each for radically different reasons, makes this year’s Person of the Year particularly special.”

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