Turmoil in Poland hasn't helped matters much at Time magazine where staffers are apparently scrambling to prepare a Man of the Year issue about Lech Walesa.
Although no one at Time will say officially that Walesa has been chosen as Man of the Year, several departments at the magazine were zeroing in on different aspects of the Polish labor leader yesterday.
"I don't know who the Man of the Year is," said Lou Slovinsky, director of corporate public relations for Time, "but my own guts tell me it's got to be Lech."
In the Time editorial department, researchers and reporters were gathering information on the man who led Polish workers in their opposition to government oppression. One problem: Walesa himself is believed to be under detention near Warsaw, placing him beyond the reach of Time's inquiring scribes.
Meanwhile, the promotion department was attempting yesterday to come up with TV footage of Walesa, presumably for advertising spots that will be broadcast the week the issue goes on sale -- Dec. 28 to Jan. 3.
Since the Man of the Year issue is still nine days off, it is possible that Walesa will not be its actual cover. Several Time employes said that a number of possible subjects had been considered, including one on the year of the assassin. There were reports yesterday of afternoon meetings being held at Time to determine whether the problem involved in reaching Walesa might preclude an in-depth focus on him. Time managing editor Ray Cave couldn't be reached for comment last evening.
Time's Man of the Year issue stirs up considerable interest every December. The magazine began printing readers' nominations in its letters column several weeks ago and, Slovinsky said, "I must have gotten 9,000 phone calls in the last week, everybody wondering if it's going to be Lech. As a Pole, I hope so."
Two years ago, several thousand readers canceled their subscriptions when Time chose Ayatollah Khomeini as Man of the Year. Time defended its choice of Khomeini by pointing out that the Man of the Year is the person who has had the most effect on the news -- for better or worse.