Time selects Obama as 2012 Person of the Year

Time magazine has named President Barack Obama as its 2012 Person of the Year.

"We are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes," Time managing editor Richard Stengel said in announcing its choice. "And Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America."

Runners-up were Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani women's rights activist who survived after being shot in the head and neck by Taliban; Apple CEO Tim Cook; Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi; and scientist Fabiola Gianotti. In 2011, Time picked "The Protester."

The magazine unveiled its Person of the Year selection on the "Today" show on Wednesday.

The president's reelection in November showed "the Obama effect was not ephemeral anymore, no longer reducible to what had once been mocked as that 'hopey-changey stuff,'" Time's Michael Scherer wrote in the accompanying cover story. "It could be measured in wars stopped and started; industries saved, restructured or reregulated; tax cuts extended; debt levels inflated; terrorists killed; the health-insurance system reimagined; and gay service members who could walk in uniform with their partners. It could be seen in the new faces who waited hours to vote and in the new ways campaigns are run. America debated and decided this year: history would not record Obama’s presidency as a fluke."

The cover features a silver border--just the fourth time in Time's 89-year-history the magazine was published without its trademark red. Time.com also published a slideshow featuring "never-before-seen images of the Obama presidency" from Election Night to Newtown.

“It was easy to think that maybe 2008 was the anomaly," President Obama told Time in an interview. “And I think 2012 was an indication that, no, this is not an anomaly. We’ve gone through a very difficult time. The American people have rightly been frustrated at the pace of change, and the economy is still struggling, and this president we elected is imperfect. And yet despite all that, this is who we want to be. That’s a good thing.”

[RELATED: Second-guessing Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2012]

Earlier this month, the magazine's online readers voted for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as their choice for Person of the Year in what Time called a "completely unscientific" poll.

The Person of the Year, instituted in 1927, is "bestowed by the editors on the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year." Obama was chosen as the 2008 Person of the Year following his historic election.

But at an annual luncheon to discuss its Person of the Year issue last month, Stengel said he wasn't a lock this time around.

"It's an interesting year because we have a re-elected president," Stengel said. "Sometimes we pick them, sometimes we don't."

At the event, Newt Gingrich--Time's Man of the Year in 1995--said "the American voter" would be his choice, but wouldn't bet against Obama. "I have twice underestimated him by a large margin," the former House Speaker said, adding: "If they pick Obama, it would be perfectly fair to have a tiny elephant crying somewhere in the corner."