THE EDITOR'S DESK

In 2001, we started a new tradition: ending the year by profiling people we think you'll hear a lot more from in the future. It was only a few months after 9/11, when it was hard for anyone to be sure what lay ahead. But as I flip through that first "Who's Next?" issue, it looks awfully prescient. We picked Republican Bill Frist, who later became Senate majority leader. Figure skater Sarah Hughes went on to win Olympic gold, and singer Alicia Keyes swept the next Grammys. And in the three years since, we've made more smart calls, from throwing a pre-Iraq-war spotlight on Gen. Tommy Franks, to handicapping White House counsel Alberto Gonzales as a future attorney-general nominee, to predicting a breakout year in 2004 for comedian Jon Stewart. On page 111, we recall some of our successes (and a few bum steers). We hope they've given you the satisfaction of seeing a headline and thinking: "Oh, I read about that person in NEWSWEEK."

So in this season, when much of the media look back, Alexis Gelber, Holly Peterson and our Who's Next team again try to keep you ahead of the curve. You probably know a little about our cover boy, Illinois Senator-elect Barack Obama, from his riveting speech at the Democratic convention. But after John Kerry's defeat, Jonathan Alter explains why Obama may play a pivotal role in helping Democrats fashion a new image more palatable to "moral values" voters. We profile conservative Rick Santorum, a rising Senate leader and possible presidential hopeful, and Avon CEO Andrea Jung, who, something tells us, has not occupied her last corner office. And if you find yourself buying a Thom Browne suit, checking movie credits for Michelle Monaghan or reading about tennis phenom Donald Young any time soon, remember: you heard it here first.

We also like to end the year giving you food for thought--and laughter. In Periscope, our correspondents share personal memories from covering the year's top stories. There's fresh reporting from Howard Fineman on what voters and political pros really think of the Red State/Blue State divide; from Michael Isikoff, Daniel Klaidman and Michael Hirsh on the torture memos that led to Abu Ghraib; from Charles Gasparino on the ties between Bernard Kerik and Rudy Giuliani, and from Ellis Cose on how black kids react to Bill Cosby's rants about African-American youth culture. And as always, we serve up some of the funniest political cartoons and quotes of 2004. So enjoy--and here's hoping that what's next for you and your loved ones is a healthy, happy New Year.