Peter Kafka

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Twitter Scandal! New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd Tweets Against Her Will!

maureen-dowd-twitter-smallNavel-gazing Twitter story of the day, or at least, of the morning: What do Twitterers think about New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s interview with Biz Stone and Evan Williams in which she made the Twitter co-founders answer her questions Tweet-style–in 140 or fewer characters?

I liked it, actually. The Twitter dudes came off just fine. And if Twitter fans thought Dowd came off as condescending or smarmy, then they ought to brace themselves, because there’s going to be plenty more like this.

But here’s my real question: Who is operating Maureen Dowd’s Twitter account? Because according to her own column, she can think of other things she’d like to do than Tweet:

“I would rather be tied up to stakes in the Kalahari Desert, have honey poured over me and red ants eat out my eyes than open a Twitter account. Is there anything you can say to change my mind?”

But as Editor & Publisher editor Greg Mitchell notes, someone opened an account with Dowd’s name last year. It’s not scintillating stuff–like many journalists’ accounts, it’s basically a promotional device for her work–but it does have some 5,000 followers.


Of course, Twitter doesn’t actually require people to prove they are who their Twitter accounts say they are, so it’s entirely possible Dowd’s account is a fake, set up by a well-meaning fan. My hunch: It’s actually set up by the Times itself and operated by a well-meaning staffer. (Tellingly, the account isn’t “following” anyone, which pretty much anyone who gives Twitter a try does at some point.)

UPDATE: I’m wrong, says NYT spokesperson Catherine Mathis. Or at least, I’m probably wrong: “It does not belong to Maureen Dowd. It appears as though it was created by someone outside The Times.”

Either way, you’d think Dowd would have noted the account at sometime in the last few months–perhaps while she was prepping for her interview at Twitter HQ.

I’ve asked the Times (a bit sheepishly, I’ll admit) for details on this pressing story. I’ll update as soon as I get them.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus