The name William Needham Finley IV was one of those in-jokes in Raleigh, the satirical pen name for the man who runs ITB Insider, which pokes fun online at developers, socialites and not-in-my-backyard community activists.
But the name made the rounds on media websites around the world last week when he started posting on Twitter about the much-hyped Fyre Fest, which was supposed to be a luxurious music festival on a private island in the Bahamas. Disaster-relief tents took the place of luxury rooms, and the people who paid thousands of dollars to attend were left scrambling to get off the tiny island.
Finley IV is actually 32-year-old Raleigh native Seth Crossno. Until the Fyre Fest debacle, many Raleigh locals didn’t know the real name of the man behind the character, who has been running ITB Insider, short for inside-the-Beltline, for a decade.
In an interview with The News & Observer on Monday, Crossno said it was something of an accident that he revealed his real name. He said a reporter from National Public Radio did a little background work and realized the name on the Twitter account didn’t belong to a real person.
Crossno, who was in Boynton Beach, Florida, salvaging the rest of his vacation, said he has done numerous interviews since he posted about his Fyre Fest experience. When reporters asked to confirm his name, he replied, “Uh, yeah.”
“I didn’t have time to explain to people this was satire,” he said.
When his real name went out on NPR, he thought his pen-name secret would remain safe. But then Billboard, which had already published a story about him, asked about his name too. He thought, “Does anyone really read Billboard?”
The jig was up.
Crossno attended Needham B. Broughton High School in Raleigh, and that’s where the “Needham” comes from. The rest of the name? Well, some would say it sounds very inside-the-Beltine.
Last year, Crossno quit his job with N.C. State University and started running itbinsider.com full time. It started as silly, making fun of the post-college social scene in Raleigh, but the site now also publishes news, mostly about development and growth in the city.
“I’m shocked that 10 years later people are still like, ‘Who is this?’ ” Crossno said of his identity.
As for having his real name out there and the sudden international attention? “This isn’t something that I planned to happen,” he said. “I don’t really know where to go from here.”
He said William Needham Finley IV might need to start traveling more often and going to more music festivals. But he’s staying local.
“We’re still going to cover Raleigh,” Crossno said.
Duncan: 919-829-4880, @duncanreporting