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A panel debating Time magazine’s Person of the Year on Thursday night struggled to even personify their two largest stories of 2009: Twitter and the economy.

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Time Magazine

Time Magazine

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WHO OR WHAT? A year after Barack Obama immediately aced the test, a panel debating Time magazine’s Person of the Year on Thursday night struggled to even personify their two largest stories of 2009: Twitter and the economy. In an attempt to tie the two themes together, Barbara Walters said the microblogging service “represents the one thing that America still has and that’s innovation.” Though the ABC News fixture also advised, “If you want buzz, I’d pick [Bernie] Madoff.” O magazine editor-at-large Gayle King pointed out that Twitter, cofounded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, had acted as a new lens on events such as the Iranian election. TV health guru Dr. Mehmet Oz agreed and said he used Twitter mostly as a means of collecting information, then casually dropped that he had 100,000 followers. The votes largely broke between those who tweet and those who do not. Restaurateur and “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio advocated for an economy-centric pick, such as Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke or Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, but added, “If you’re sitting in one of my restaurants, feel free to Twitter to 100,000 people.” Co-moderator and 2001 Person of the Year Rudy Giuliani cast his final vote for Bernanke and said he could not choose a Twitter-themed pick for the Dec. 18 issue if he did not know how to use the service. “I’m going to pull out my iPhone, and you’re going to show me how to do it,” the former mayor told Time managing editor and fellow moderator Richard Stengel. Though his pick went the other way, Giuliani couldn’t resist riffing on social network overshare. “I wish we had tweeting and e-mail when I was a prosecutor,” the one-time U.S. Attorney said.

— Matthew Lynch

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