How the New York Times Botched its Exposé of Nail Salons

The Times mistranslated and misconstrued evidence, leading to statewide regulations on the nail salon industry.

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First published on Nov 19, 2015

In May 2015, The New York Times published a much-discussed two-part story claiming, among other things, that nail salon workers in New York State are routinely exploited—earning wages as low as $10 per day.

Immediately after the first article appeared, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) started a regulatory crackdown on nail salons. The result has been to wreak havoc on this immigrant-dominated industry and to close off employment opportunities for undocumented workers.

And the New York Times story that inspired Cuomo's crackdown broadly mischaracterized the nail salon industry. Manicurists are skilled employees whose labor is in high demand, and they have a good deal of bargaining power. Some of the men and women the Times reporter spoke with say she misquoted them or misrepresented their businesses.

Read the first of three articles dissecting the Times' coverage of nail salons and its consequences for the industry: https://reason.com/blog/2015/10/27/ne…

Read the first article to point out problems in the gray lady's nail salon series written by former Times journalist Richard Bernstein: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/…

Read the article by New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan that came out in response to Bernstein's and Reason's reporting: http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com…

Written, shot, edited, and narrated by Jim Epstein.

About 11 minutes.

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  1. Can we stop pretending college football games are 3 hours long?

    1. The NFL could get games down to around two hours if they didn’t stop the game clock on change of possession, incompletions and out of bounds plays. And didn’t take so many TV timeouts.

      Let that sucker run!

      That way we could get three tiers of games on Sunday (plus Sunday night) so that would be seven games for people who don’t bother to buy the satellite package.

      Add a network and that’s ten games.

      That means with Monday and Thursday night games 24 out of the 32 teams will get national exposure each week. This would be much better for the fans than the way things are now.

      Add a game on Monday and Thursday (which would be only an extra hour of broadcast time over what it is now) and only four teams per week don’t get seen.

      1. That would be sweet.

      2. The NFL combines the two worst aspects of American society: violence and committee meetings.

        George Will

      3. The players are better with the little extra bit of rest.

        I know, there are paid millions…. we are the customers…., etc etc….but.

        I like the higher quality of play and enjoy the extra time with my favorite team on the tele and not just random teams I have little interest in.

        1. Sucks when your favorite team isn’t local though.

          1. Yes it does.

            have you tried NFL Sunday Ticket online ?

            I think it’s better that NFL Network and cheaper.

      4. At this point, who cares. Within a decade from now, on the current course we’re on, not only will all contact in the sport be forbidden, but calling another player poopey head will result in automatic forfeiture of the game. Throwing the ball will be illegal, running the ball illegal, scoring illegal, because all of that will be racist and sexist and even playing the game will be an act of aggression, so there’s really no need to discuss the future of the game, there isn’t one.

      5. Nfl game pass condensed games are 30 minutes

    2. +1 soccer. In and out in less than 2 hours.

      1. Get some control on the flopping and you might have a good sport there. Whining and flopping is also killing basketball.

        1. I totally agree – everyone hates it but when you have kids training how to cheat from a young age, how do you stop it? I think it is high time for some sort of “instant review” like they have in Aussie football – it only takes a few seconds so it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the game very much.

          1. Red card obvious floppers and their coach. However if it happens again it’s two games for both.

            By obvious I mean like this one video I saw where a guy was a good two feet away from another player yet threw himself to the ground. He needed to be sent off.

            1. I don’t think you need to be that punitive. A simple yellow will do (but yes, red if inside the box). Yellow cards are already pretty punitive – two of them get you sent off and five get you a suspension. The problem is most refs are too afraid or just quite aren’t sure enough to give any caution at all.

              1. No, red card both for the delay of game and the disgrace to one’s gender.

  2. Do you really think the NYT “botched” the story? If they botched anything, it was failing to predict the outcry.

    Ultimately, this story was just an attack on successful business. Lefties just cannot imagine business success coming from anything other than the oppression of workers. It’s built into their ideology. The world, for them, is a fixed-size pie such that any success by one person or group must come at the exploitation of others. They just don’t understand the market.

    The NYT writer gathered some facts and weaved them into her narrative about small business exploiting workers and that’s that. They didn’t botch anything–they succeeded.

    1. If the NYT is presenting itself to be an unbiased source for news consumers, we have to frame what they did as a mistake rather than an overreach. If anything, those who know better should just pity the waning paper for living in a past where there were few avenues to publicly check a journalist’s reporting.

      1. Well I’m glad that past is (almost) gone. When a news rag has so much power that they can bring down government oppression on an entire industry, something is wrong with our society.

      2. I think the NYT believes it is an unbiased news source.

      3. Only, the writer of the piece specifically stated that the goal was to show that anything that seems too cheap comes from exploitation of workers. There was nothing unbiased about the piece from the start regardless of how the NYT perceives itself. They started with a premise and worked backwards.

        1. In the old days, when every town had multiple papers, the bias was apparent and well-known. It’s only in recent years that papers like the NYT are able to claim “no bias” with a straight face. But NYC still has multiple papers and everyone knows what their bias is, even if one of them tries to hide it.

    2. weaved them into her narrative about small business exploiting workers and that’s that.

      Probably. A more insidious interpretation? Asians in general, and Asian immigrants in particular, don’t fit into the “racism defines American society” narrative very well. So, let’s find out why Asian businesses do so well.

      1. So, let’s find out why Asian businesses do so well.

        Exactly. They can’t understand business succeeding without exploiting someone. It’s just not in their Weltanschauung.

      2. “So, let’s find out why Asian businesses do so well.”

        Simple. WORK. You only get back what you put into it. It’s not just Asians – it’s all immigrants who came and opened up businesses. The owner-operator concept fit perfectly for people looking to assimilate. Although, one can argue the Chinese liked to keep to themselves more than most communities. Either way, they WORKED.

        1. I don’t disagree. My point is that, in the affirmative-action, “racism is all” narrative in modern day America, Asian immigrants really blow that up. So, for someone from the NYT, since America is racist and no one can succeed then Asians who succeed must be doing something evil.

          1. I think there’s some of that for sure.

        2. Either way, they WORKED.

          I can’t help but wonder if this is one of the basic concepts that lefties/socialists cannot understand. Value Add seems outside their comprehension. After all, they seem to believe that merely spending money contributes to an economy. They seem to accept that selling a case of beer has the same economic value as developing a new beer. Making busy work for the unemployed contributes the same value as starting a new business with a product that helps customers do old things in more effective ways.

          1. Could you imagine a prog reading what you just wrote?

            Deer in head lights.

          2. They obviously understand, they sound like Maoists. Great leap forward makes everybody equal, right?

    3. I just finished reading “Final Voyage” a historical narrative about the Whaling Industry and in particular the New Bedford Quakers and their domination of it for a few centuries.

      Once petroleum replaced whale oil they were forced out of the bsiness except for a diehard few. One of the gransons of one of the richest Quaker whalers opened a cotton mill. He paid his employees more than the other mill owners and built company housing that housed them in much better standard than their counterparts at the other mills. Business was very good and his empployees stuck with him through several strikes through the years by the other mill workers.

      Business turned bad however and he could no longer keep the factory running and compete against the other mills in bad times. His payroll was 5% higher per worker than theirs. The mill went out of business, he went brankrupt, the mill was auctioned off and his workers were out of a job and evicted from their housing and it was auctioned off.

      No job and no housing was the eventual outcome for the once higher paid, higher standard of living workers who worked for a boss that thought he could stand against market forces out of the goodness of his heart.

      The End.

      1. I’m re-reading “Prophet of Innovation” about Schumpeter. Schumpeter makes the point repeatedly that capitalism trades immediate reward for long-term prosperity while socialism promotes immediate gratification to the detriment of progress.
        Pretty sure that’s a good explanation; see the ‘success’ of O-care!

      2. Don’t try to fight the free market as it’s fucking you, kids. Lay back and take it. Freedom!!

        1. Show us on the doll where the market touched you.

    4. Do you really think the NYT “botched” the story?

      Good point. “Botched” implies they went in with good faith, which I think we can all agree is not the case.

      Ultimately, this story was just an attack on successful business.

      Remember, Cuomo’s crackdown came the very next day. The article was a government-driven hit piece meant to justify the crackdown.

      1. The article was a government-driven hit piece meant to justify the crackdown.

        This seems way too plausible. Since the author is a socialite, it could very well be that she has connections within the government to go with her employee connection to the Times. That the New York governor would react the very next day seems to push our experience with the efficiency of government. However, if the governor’s task force were already prepared and waiting for the story to get published, the scheduled of events makes more sense.

        1. I have little doubt that the state and local governments are heavily intertwined with the poo-bahs who run the Times. Remember the feds and NBC? TW: (pre-derp) Salon.

  3. On-topic:

    Never let a crisis go to waste, even if, first, you have to create the crisis.

    1. And, in this case, it was the Fourth Estate inflating the nonstory into a crisis.

      1. And they got the state to expand its power, so a win for them!

  4. Hi New York Times! Suck my dick!

    /Jimmy.

    1. Hey Rufus,

      I was shopping for a new coffee maker today. One had the instructions in English for both the US market and the Canadian market. The coffee makers for the unit made for the Canadian market had many pictures instead of written words for the function of different buttons. The US one had the word brew over the brew button but the Canadian one had a picture of a steaming cup of coffee.

      Do many Canadian appliances have pictures or symbols instead of words ?

      1. I have no clue. But if I were to guess, I suspect it’s a way for them to circumnavigate language laws in Quebec? Why translate when a symbol can convey a message just as well?

  5. How did they botch it?

    They didn’t botch it. They lied. It’s the New York Times.

    1. “How did they botch it?”

      They got caught.

  6. Ron Kim

    “Paying people cash under the table can found in many other sectors”

    But that’s unregulated activity, Ron. Why not shut down every one of these nail salons like the NY AG is trying to shut down daily fantasy baseball.

    What’s that? Unregulated activity is ok if it concerns immigration? OK.

  7. Can you imagine the uproar if some Republican governor imposed some “wage bond” on Latino warehouses in response to a flawed FOX news expose?

    Also, I’m calling BS on the Korean nail salon association NOT joining the Chinese protest on advice that the NYT is some sort of unbeatable behemoth. Surely that advice isn’t coming from any reputable law firm that’s capable of bullying giant companies into accepting some sort of settlement to make troubles go away. I’m almost certain that most OG Koreans don’t feel comfortable protesting alongside the Chinese (I’m being serious here), or they’re being advised by a partisan source.

  8. No one cares. Time to move on.

    1. Yeah, nothing to see here. Another lost piece of Liberty isn’t a big deal, right?

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