The votes are in: Stephen Colbert, the host of the eponymously-pronounced "The Colbert Report," is the 2006 I Want Media Person of the Year as voted in the media site's annual online poll.
Colbert has been a can't miss commentator since day one — literally, because it was on Day One that he introduced his guiding concept of "truthiness," now an ingrained part of the vernacular. In April he struck a giant nerve at the White House Correspondent's dinner, skewering President Bush in a bitingly spot-on set before all of D.C.' s heavy hitters, and then, tellingly, everyone else via YouTube (but also giving the CSPAN site more hits than it could remember).
Colbert is also a pioneer for his skillful use of the web via the havoc he played with Wikipedia, his takeover of a bridge in Hungary, and of course his "Stephen Colbert Greenscreen Challenge". At this point I think it's interesting — and fair — to note the symbiotic role Colbert and Jon Stewart, and Comedy Central, played in each other's exploding reach this year. YouTube extended Colbert and Stewart's audience by millions every day as new clips were religiously posted, giving millions of viewers a reason to go to YouTube that they might otherwise not have had (this is one of the reasons it was such big news that Comedy Central started pulling clips earlier this year).
Contenders this year included — in order of votes — Rachael Ray, Chad Hurley, Dean Baquet, and Arianna Huffington. Also in the running were Katie Couric, Tom Freston, Rupert Murdoch, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and NBC hitmaker and NBC 2.0 architect Jeff Zucker. I repeat, Racheal Ray came in SECOND. The comments from prominent media voters are definitely worth a read (and it's interesting to note that none of the feeatured commenters voted for Eric Schmidt). Bonnie Fuller picked Chad Hurley; Keith Kelly picked Dean Baquet — " the poster boy for all the stupid moronic things some major media companies are doing"; Tina Brown chose "queen of the blogosphere" (and ETP bosslady) Arianna Huffington; AdAge's Scott Donaton pisses off Toyota. Both Kurt Andersen and Ken Auletta mentioned Lou Dobbs as representing the trend in opinionated on-air punditry (Andersen called Dobbs and Colbert "the twin avatars of Cable News 3.0...both lacking all doubt concerning their versions of the truth...both glowing with self-regard, one a parody and one not"). Write-ins included Keith Olbermann, the higher-rated not-Courics Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams, YouTube star Judson Laipply (per Bob Garfield: "He's a motivational speaker from Ohio, and you have seen him dance"), and Page Six's Richard Johnson, modestly nominated by Page Six's Richard Johnson.
Last year's winner was CNN's Anderson Cooper and prior to that Jon Stewart was the winner in 2004. — Rachel Sklar