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The North County News Ain't Payin' Attenshun

January 26, 2008

We at Crotonblog consider it to be our duty to make sure The North County News gets its facts right, even though they only occasionally report on events in the village of Croton. The North County News is still committing factual errors that should not be made by a newspaper that likes to think of itself as a newspaper of record. In a story this week about a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation grant of $50,000 to Croton’s elementary school, North County News reporter Adriane Tillman misspelled at five different places the name of the beloved teacher for whom the school is named, calling it the “Carrie Tomkins Elementary School.” The correct spelling of her name, of course, is “Carrie E. Tompkins.”

A small matter, you say? Not when the correctly spelled name is emblazoned on the front of the school in large letters. North County News reporters and the paper’s copy editor owe it to the village to spell names correctly and to get facts right. Ms. Tillman is hereby requested to come to the front of the class and write the “Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School” one hundred times on the blackboard.

The exterior of the Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School (click on photo to enlarge).

Carrie E. Tompkins lived at 140 Grand Street and taught at Croton’s second school a few doors away. The first public school was the modest wooden house at 49 Old Post Road North. The Grand Street school building later was converted for use as a firehouse for the Columbian Hook and Ladder Company and the Chemical Engine Company. Modified again in 2000 to handle larger vehicles, it is still used as a firehouse. Ms. Tompkins’ house later became the longtime home of the popular Gallagher’s II restaurant. For anyone wanting to identify Ms. Tompkins’ former home, 140 Grand Street is now the location of Friend’s Bar.

How did Crotonblog happen to become the fact-checker for The North County News? Here’s how it came about: In 2006, after the death of founder John Chase, one Bruce Apar, with no newspaper experience, was appointed to the self-denominated twin roles of “Editor + Publisher” of the award-winning North County News. His first act was to fire the entire staff of dedicated journalists one by one and replace them with a pickup team of neophyte sandlot players. His peremptory action in ruthlessly dumping loyal longtime employees set off howls from readers who canceled subscriptions at an alarming rate.

Looking for a way to increase circulation in Croton, last year Mr. Apar decided to attack Crotonblog in print for following the blogging tradition of permitting anonymous comments by readers. He set up a competing copycat blog, which he called Croton Blog. Its policy, set by Mr. Apar, was to refuse to accept comments unless the contributors’ identities were revealed. Those few Crotonblog readers who ventured to that site quickly found it pretty tame stuff—sort of like eavesdropping on a rural telephone party line.

Crotonblog is nobody’s patsy and decided to retaliate. We went over each week’s edition of The North County News with a fine-tooth comb and found a host of errors of fact, many of them made by Mr. Apar, who loves to ruminate and ramble in print. To signal that we had caught his newspaper in another error, with each correction we printed a small copy of the Revolutionary War rattlesnake flag, with its motto warning, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Mr. Apar quickly realized that he was living in a glass house and took the hint. He dropped his attacks on Crotonblog like a hot potato.

Before the year was out, the North County News abandoned its Croton Blog. As an adjunct to the electronic version of their now-anemic newspaper, the paper started a series of forums for each community they purport to cover. Revealing one’s identity is no longer a virtue on these, and anonymity is not the sin it once was in Mr. Apar’s eyes. The content, however, is still the same boring back-fence gossip.

Under editor Rick Pezzulo, the former journalistically excellent North County News penetrated everywhere and covered northern Westchester and southern Putnam counties like the smog over Beijing. Its reporters attended school board and village board meetings and were attuned to the currents of village and town politics. Its sports coverage was superb. No more. The electronic edition often runs the same local story over and over. For example, recently it repeatedly posted the same account of the Supreme Court’s December decision about Croton’s Metro Enviro property for the better part of a month.

Mr. Apar recently embarked on a new venture. Weighing in at 228 pounds of blubber—our guess it’s more likely 228 pounds of schmaltz (chicken fat in Yiddish)—he decided that he is carrying too much avoirdupois. To lose weight, he started working out regularly at Club Fit in Yorktown Heights. We know this because he has been bloviating in great detail on his own blog about his progress—if you can call it that. So far he is down to 224.7 pounds, which means he has lost all of 3.3 pounds. We call that loss much ado about nothing.

Because embarrassing errors are still being made at The North County News, in Crotonblog’s humble opinion Mr. Apar would be better advised to remain at his desk and pore over page proofs of his error-prone newspaper instead of pouring out sweat on an Exercycle at Club Fit. We at Crotonblog are getting tired of the thankless task of correcting the errors of The North County News.


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