Rob Thomas has announced that Patty Hearst will be a guest star on 'Veronica Mars' during the third season. And he has defined not only her role (well, not exactly), but also he's pointed up the differences between Toobworld and the Real World:
"[Patty Hearst] is playing a character close to herself. She's playing the granddaughter of Hearst College's [founder], who in our world is a railroad baron rather than a publishing baron. [She] goes missing the night before an important vote about the future of Hearst University. It'll be similar, but she is not literally playing Patty Hearst."
He doesn't come out and say that the Hearst after whom the college is named is actually William Randolph Hearst. It could be yet another Hearst family member who went into the railroad biz rather than publishing with his share of the family money.
Fictional members of real-life families are nothing new in Toobworld. Art Carney was related to Vera on 'Alice'; Megan Russert of 'Homicide: Life On The Street' was a cousin of Tim Russert. And Fran's grandmother was dating the blind uncle of Bryant Gumbel on 'The Nanny'. (The uncle was played by Ray Charles.)
But even if it turns out that the college is named after William Randolph Hearst, it doesn't alter the fact that he's descended from the robber baron bastard who posed such a threat to Al Swearengen in 'Deadwood' during the late 1870s.