croton blog for croton-on-hudson new york

The Phony Blogging Activities of The North County News

May 23, 2008

At first glance the forums of The North County News seem to be thriving. Closer examination, however, reveals that the whole operation is a Potemkin village. For readers unfamiliar with the allusion, so-called Potemkin villages were fake settlements consisting of little more than facades erected at the direction of Russian courtier Grigori Alexandovich Potemkin to impress Empress Catherine the Great during her visit to the Crimean peninsula in 1787.

The NCN forums had their inception in a single blog begun in 2006 by that newspaper, which boldly appropriated the name Croton Blog. We say, “boldly appropriated” because Crotonblog had commenced operation a year earlier, and its name was protected by copyright. The NCN blog’s sole purpose was to accommodate the small number of former contributors to Crotonblog who were unhappy with its policy of accepting anonymous contributions and comments. Eventually sensing that its initially naïve policy of insisting that all contributors must reveal their identities and sign their own names was inhibiting reader participation, the newspaper decided to follow the practice of the blogging world and accept anonymous contributions and comments on a new next generation of blogs.

Accordingly, in November of last year, the Croton Blog was mercifully killed and a dozen forums were set up—ten for communities in northern Westchester, one in southern Putnam County, and another to serve the whole of Westchester County. The result of this new effort to create a presence in northern tier communities has been a mixed bag, to say the least. Although a handful of Croton residents hijacked the Croton forum and now monopolize it like a chummy private fiefdom, the results for the other forums have been desultory.

Consider these statistics: In the seven months since the forums were started, of the eleven communities selected to host forums, three (Chappaqua, Mt. Kisco and Pleasantville) have had zero participation by readers. The postings in three other communities (Somers, 1; Katonah, 2; and Ossining 5) can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Here’s the rest of the dismal picture: Cortlandt, 11; Putnam Valley 12; Peekskill, 17, Yorktown, 21—or a total of only 69 postings. What is so curious about this numbers is that, with the exception of one Katonah posting by a resident of Croton about the Katonah Museum, someone in the employ of the North County News made each of these 69 spurious postings.

The street word for such postings is that they are the work of shills. In the jargon of the underworld, a shill is someone who poses as an eager customer and buys counterfeit merchandise such as phony Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton handbags, or participates in a rigged game—usually three-card monte—by playing the role of an enthusiastic winning gambler to dupe bystanders into betting and losing money in the swindle. The NCN’s shills use the names “yepster” and “Bazzomanifesto.” The latter name is that of a taxi operator in Peekskill who also serves as a columnist on The North County News. His specialty is writing illiterate and ungrammatical “sample letters” that he urges readers to copy, sign and send to legislators.

In short, in ten of the eleven communities targeted by The North County News, not a single resident of those communities who was not on the NCN payroll saw fit to post anything on an NCN forum. This speaks volumes, of course, about the penetration of the newspaper into communities of northern Westchester and southern Putnam counties. We might point out that The North County News is headquartered in Yorktown Heights, and that community is the focus of its newsgathering activities. Yet so weak is its penetration there, it still cannot generate enough reader interest to spark a single posting by a Yorktown reader.

But when we come to Croton, the picture changes dramatically. Although its circulation in Croton is slight, in the same seven months since last November, a total of 855 postings have appeared on the NCN Croton forum. This startling performance makes one wonder whether there is something in Croton’s water that would spark such a burst of mean-spirited partisan acrimony. In contrast to the disinterest and lack of participation by residents of the other communities, once the NCN shills had gotten the ball rolling on NCN’s Croton forum, a mere handful of collaborators took over and now monopolize it.

At the moment, this little clique is using the Croton forum to (1) extol the administration of Mayor Gregory Schmidt; (2) promote the candidacy of Village Treasurer Abraham Zambrano for the high-paying job of Village Manager, despite his lack of academic qualifications and related work experience; (3) make disparaging remarks about Crotonblog; (4) conduct a rah-rah campaign to convince themselves that prosperity is everywhere present in Croton despite every indication to the contrary, the latest being the surprising announcement of the impending departure of specialty retailer Wondrous Things; and (5) congratulate one another for copycat journalistic “scoops,” such as posting a link to an already-published Journal News story.

Examining the names of the authors of the 855 postings reveals the inner workings of the NCN forum for Croton-on-Hudson. First we must deduct the six postings of the two NCN shills, “Bazzomanifesto” and “yepster.” Of the remaining 849 postings, 313 were posted by Maria Cudequest and 100 by Robert Wintermeier. Include the other frequent posters, “Carolyn G.” (99), “notorc” (81) and “Jennifer” (81), and we find that these five posters on NCN’s Croton forum have made a total of 674 postings, representing 83% of all postings. A tight little inbred group indeed, such as you might expect to encounter in a remote village off the beaten track in some Appalachian hollow.

If all that The North County News can show for its considerable three-year venture into the world of blogging is a single forum buzzing like a nest of angry hornets, Crotonblog cannot be blamed for wondering why a newspaper would sully its good name by providing a platform for a bunch of malcontents. Even more puzzling is why a once-respected newspaper would plant on eight of its twelve forums phony comments from shills purporting to be readers to give the impression of intense reader activity where none exists, even to this day. Shame, shame, Editor + Publisher Bruce Apar and The North County News.

On June 2, 2008 10:21 PM, Skatepark Ghost said:

I agree with you, Mamabear. CB’s editors slimed out badly on this exchange. They resort to nasty attacks and threats when called out for their bully-boy tactics. They dish it but can’t take it.

On June 2, 2008 10:28 AM, mamabear4 said:

To The Editors, regarding your May 31st comment about Mr. Faranda… He’s being accused by you of certain copyright violations and yet here you have outright blatantly published his personal address without (obviously) his permission, completely ignoring his privacy rights. As an outsider looking in on all this, it seems at the core to have become for some reason very personal, and I’m curious as to how that came to be. Why are people trying to find any dirt on Mr. Faranda… I mean, is Mr. Faranda running for some kind of office? Or is it just retaliation for having a different view? I’ve seen Mr. Faranda’s blog and it just looks like thousands of blogs out there that were begun as a way to connect with friends and family, as a vehicle for thinking out loud and begun at a crossroads in his life. Well if any blog doesn’t capture a reader’s fancy and attention, that reader will just move on. If Mr. Faranda’s blog is to you boring, and spending some time with him is considered akin to the excitement of watching paint dry, then why is he and his blog getting such scrutiny from you? And at least Mr. Faranda has not utilized the method of going to the lengths of finding out what other people’s tax filing status is for any purposes. I own and run several businesses and have small toddlers therefore my workdays are 19, 20-hour days, and I wish I had more time to devote to discovering all the good-bad-ugly on the internet (and God forbid, maybe even start my own blog for my family & friends), but I do notice that when blogs are done well, they don’t need to rely on hitting below the blogging belt of publishing certain private information, just like a good comic doesn’t have to rely on using toilet humor to get a laugh. In the heat of debate, it was probably overlooked, but that stuck out more than the rest of your commentary, at least to me.

On May 31, 2008 11:13 PM, Tom Faranda said:

Georgianna, i am glad to hear that The Editors have at least one friend. Obviously they don’t share your good humor.

And thanks to the persons who sent me The Editor’s last posting.

Today i received an email from (I’m on lots of lists) saying “No Profits from Lies” on the subject line. I immediately thought of The Editors.

On May 29th The Editors write that Tom Faranda is “one of our occasional readers.” Then on May 31st they write that I am “regularly ridiculing crotonblog”. Which is it - “occasional reader” or “regularly ridiculing”?

You are no doubt familiar with Kevin “K Willy” Davis, a sometime colorful contributor to local activities, including blogging. Last year I invited him to meet me at Summerfest and he obliged, and we had a very pleasant 15 or twenty minute conversation. He is more mature then your friend, who is now on the hook big time for lying about me.

It is a lie to claim that I am violating copyright laws - i do what thousands of well-known and not well-known bloggers do every day - put a link up to some article and then take excerpts directly from the article to give the reader a feel for the article. They can then decide whether to read the whole thing or not.

And it is a totally bizarre lie, to make a public claim that “So blatant was his copying from The New York Times that the legal department of the Times sent him a “lawyer letter” warning him to cease and desist.” (The Editors, May 29, 2008). This is an absurdity.

First, i have never received any such letter from any publication,and secondly, If I had, how would The Editors know? I know crotonblog is a huge worldwide organization, with an immense editorial staff, but do they really have access to the NY Times legal offices?

So your friend has to put up or shut up. If he can come up with the “lawyer letter”, or even any convincing proof that such a letter exists, I will evenly split a $1,000 charitable contribution between the Save Darfur Coalition, and Good Counsel Homes. And I will get a $100 gift certificate from the Black Cow and give it to him, so he can have a nice coffee and donuts party with his large CB staff.

No more excuses for him Georgianna, gross lies and distortions is not the same as “debate and exchange opinions.” This is the sort of reckless defamation that can spark litigation.

Ohhh, one other point. your friend made some silly disparaging comment about my blogging a slide show of Bermuda. i haven’t been to Bermuda in twenty years. He must be mistaking my photos of Croton Point and the Hudson River for Bermuda. He needs to get out more.

Sincerely (and hope to see you at Summerfest), your friend Tom Faranda

On May 31, 2008 5:04 PM, weewill said:

“Some of your acquaintances (I doubt if you have any friends”) is a poor and unfair assumption made by Tom Faranda referring to Ross. I count myself fortunate to be a friend of Ross’ along with a whole lot of others in Croton.

I know Tom and while certainly disagreeing with many of the posts made by his “friends” on the NCN blog, I still like to think of him as a friend and neighbor. I suggest he try to do the same with those of us who debate and exchange opinions on the Crotonblog.

The deliberate intent of most of the posts on both the NCN blog and the Crotonblog is to draw a line in the sand in support of one’s positions, diverse as they may be. Care should be taken to be courteous and factual regardless of whether we agree of disagree. Unpleasant charges are unnecessary.

Georgianna Grant

On May 31, 2008 9:05 AM, TeaDrinker said:

The world is full of people who can dish it out but can’t take it. Tom Faranda is one of them. He has been regularly ridiculing Crotonblog for some infraction or other. He calls it “slagging,” a British and Australian slang expression for putting someone down. Whatever the provocations are called, we have ignored them. Up until now, that is. His most recent charge? That we have been deceiving readers by using the editorial “we” on Crotonblog to give the impression that it is produced by more than one person.

Last week Crotonblog decided that we had enough of his gratuitous personal comments, and we retaliated by alluding to some of Mr. Faranda’s sins. In his response, Mr. Faranda outdid Crotonblog and himself. He directed readers to the documentation about the case in which he claimed that he failed to pay N.Y. State income taxes because tax delinquency notices had not been received. They had been addressed to 66 Elmora Avenue in Croton instead of 66 Elmore Avenue, his proper address. If you believe the Croton Post Office is that easily confused by one letter in a street name, we’ve got a hundred-year-old dam in good condition that we’d like to sell you.

Now he wants to sit down at Summerfest on June 1 and have “a beer and a hamburger,” apparently to make amends in a friendly chat. We thank Mr. Faranda for the offer, but decline. We have nothing to discuss. Like so many others, Mr. Faranda has chosen to reduce everything to the personal level, attacking the messenger instead of reading and challenging the message.

Moreover, the only beer we drink these days comes from Captain Lawrence’s microbrewery in Pleasantville. And we grill our own hamburgers from an old recipe and serve them to friends and guests on a Martin’s Pennsylvania Dutch potato-flour toasted bun.

On May 29, 2008 10:42 PM, Tom Faranda said:

Ahhh, Ross, you are too clever by half. i don’t have time to address all your blatant lies and falsehoods (but I will), just your sly little comment at the end of your posting about my not paying taxes.

i have a very fine reputation in Croton - in fact some of your acquaintances (I doubt if you have any friends) are clients of mine. Of course 90% of my clients aren’t in Croton.

But I digress.

Having lived and worked in the Third World for four years, been arrested and jailed in the US a dozen times for civil disobedience (over BIG ISSUES), and beaten (so far) cancer, do you think anything you write or infer on your blog is going to bother me?

I suggest we have a genial, face to face meeting at the Summerfest. I’ll be at the HNM Respect Life Society table. You know what I look like from my blog, but just so you’re sure to recognize me, I’ll be wearing my blue “Benedict XVI” baseball cap. I will buy you a beer and a hamburger, and we can have a nice, civil 20 minute chat. Anyone else who reads this is welcome to drop over and introduce themselves.

But back to your inuendo about my taxes. You must have found the NY State notice that is online (don’t you have anything better to do?). This was a many years dispute, going back to tax years 89-93. However, it’s only one document - my case was amicably settled later that year (2002) for $6-7,000. I don’t remember the exact amount and doubt if I still have the documents.

Here is the link to the document for anyone who cares.

Thanks to the people who sent me RW’s posting attacking me. Much appreciated.

Ross, God Bless you and your family.

On May 28, 2008 10:22 PM, Tom Faranda said:

it’s always entertaining to drop in on the crotonblog once or twice a month. Seeing the latest obsession of the owner- publisher, now going on and on and on and on about the NCN forum. Whilst describing himself with the royal “we.” That’s a nice touch. Cutting edge stuff.

On May 24, 2008 12:07 PM, bojangles said:

Wayne Stephenson and Tom are correct. What’s the point of this on-going battle between two blogs? There are hundreds of thousands of blogs available - you can even start one of your own. I’d suggest the NCN bloggers - what few of them there are, go to and start their own blog. That would at least be an honest approach. You bloggers could stop hiding behind the phony NCN blog. Crotonblog is far superior.

On May 24, 2008 8:50 AM, Wayne Stevenson said:

I’m at a loss as to why anyone cares about the NCN. The editor(s) of Crotonblog seem intensely defensive about their superiority as a blog. But what does it matter? If it’s good, people will read and participate. If it’s not, people will go elsewhere. What’s going on at the “other blog” is not an issue that Crotonblog readers care about. Be comfortable in your success, with your vast, global readership, and stop obsessing about 5 people on some other blog.

On May 24, 2008 2:20 AM, Tom said:

…what is the point of this?


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