Bonnie’s post below about TIME’s reader poll on the 100 most influential people reminds me of something that I always found mystifying (and also a little exasperating) about the newsmagazine cover choices. Full disclosure here: I worked at TIME for 15 years, and hold the magazine and the people who work there in the highest regard.


My beef is with those cover stories that TIME and Newsweek did on Nancy Pelosi when she was speaker of the House.

You don’t remember them?

That might be because they never happened.

No matter that she rose higher than any other woman ever has in our government, holding a post that put her second in line for the presidency. No matter that during President Obama’s first two years in office, she practically carried his entire agenda over the finish line on her back: health care, energy, regulatory reform, education, pay equity.

And no matter that--love her or hate her--Pelosi in the view of many scholars consolidated more power in that office, and wielded it more effectively than any speaker in modern history.

As Ronald M. Peters Jr. and Cindy Simon Rosenthal of the University of Oklahoma’s Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center put it in their book about her:

“Sam Rayburn looked forward to a Speaker who would be in charge of the House. He became its longest-serving Speaker, legendary in spite of the very real limitations on his power due to the dominance of the committee system. He certainly did not contemplate that the Speaker of his dreams might be a woman and not a man.”

All that earned Pelosi $65 million worth of Republican ads, 161,203 spots in all, in the 2010 midterm elections--something she always insisted she took as a compliment to what she had gotten done.

But it apparently didn’t merit a newsmag cover. Probably the closest she came was in this story that I wrote naming her a runner-up for Person of the Year in 2009.

John Boehner, on the other hand, made the covers of both TIME and Newsweek before he even got his hands on the gavel.

She wasn’t shut out entirely, however. In 2011, Pelosi made the cover of Ms. Magazine. The headline: “The Woman Time and Newsweek Won’t Put On Their Covers.”