About 250 nail salon owners staged a protest outside The New York Times building last Tuesday morning to complain that a series of articles that appeared in the paper last May grossly mischaracterized their industry.
The paper's coverage did much more than damage the reputation of nail salons. The day after the first installment appeared, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) launched a regulatory crackdown that's been damaging to many of these mom and pop establishments.
Tuesday's protest was the third demonstration in five weeks. Yet you won't read about them in The New York Times. And the paper isn't responding to its critics.
The protesters are correct to complain about the Times' coverage. Last week, I published a three-part, 8,000 word re-reporting of the original series at Reason.com, which argued that Times reporter, Sarah Maslin Nir, violated the standards of responsible journalism. (Read the first installment of my series here.)
Today, I've got a follow-up piece in The New York Post, looking at how the government's new inspection task force is hurting nail shops—and undocumented immigrants.
The day after the first article appeared, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a multi-agency task force to crack down on these Chinese- and Korean-run businesses. Then he issued an emergency order requiring that nail salons purchase a special form of insurance to protect their employees from underpayment of wages. The Cuomo administration didn't bother with an independent investigation.
Today nail shops are being hit with big fines, and complying with the new insurance mandate is eroding their narrow profit margins. New nail salons have stopped opening. "I feel like the government forced me into a position with no way out," one of the protesters told me as he fought back tears.
Workers are also feeling the pain. Ironically, the undocumented immigrants who once found rare employment opportunities in nail salons — and whose plight the Times claims to be so concerned with — are now struggling to find work in the industry. Owners are afraid that if they hire undocumented workers, they could get in trouble with the state inspectors who've been dropping by their shops unannounced.