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The New York Times’ Nail Salons Series Was Filled with Misquotes and Factual Errors. Here’s Why That Matters. (Part 1)

Reporter Sarah Maslin Nir's investigative series violated the standards of responsible journalism.

A two-part seriNail Salon Industry Protest, October 6, 2015. |||es in The New York Times on nail salons has brought sweeping changes to an industry dominated by Korean and Chinese immigrants. Written by reporter Sarah Maslin Nir, the series, which ran in print on May 10 and 11, focused on the plight of nail salon manicurists in New York City and Long Island. It depicted a community of immigrant workers paid shockingly low wages to beautify the fingers and toes of affluent New Yorkers while inhaling toxic fumes that cause miscarriages and cancer.

Nir, who spent 13 months on the project, said in an interview that she initially pitched the story as an "expose," adding that the "great lesson" readers should come away with is that there's "no such thing as a cheap luxury." The only way "you can have something decadent for a cheap price is by someone being exploited." (My Reason colleague, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, wrote a critique of Nir's series shortly after it was published.)

The "great lesson" here is actually something different. I've spent the last several weeks re-reporting aspects of Nir's story and interviewing her sources. Not only did Nir's coverage broadly mischaracterize the nail salon industry, several of the men and women she spoke with say she misquoted or misrepresented them. In some cases, she interviewed sources without translators despite their poor English skills. When her sources' testimonies ran counter to her narrative, she omitted them altogether.

The second article lent the Times' imprimatur to unproven theories, while committing science journalism's cardinal sin of highlighting alarmist anecdotes that aren't representative of systematic research.

If it hadn't had real-world consequences, the series—and subsequent attempt by Nir and her editors to parry criticism—wouldn't be worth such intense scrutiny. But the day after the first article appeared in the print edition of the Times, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) announced a new multi-agency task force to inspect nail salons. In August, Cuomo issued an emergency order mandating that salons purchase a new form of insurance called a "wage bond" so that if owners are discovered paying their employees less than the legally required wage, the workers have recourse to collect.

The rush to legislate based solely on the Times' shoddy reporting has hurt the industry. New nail salons, "which used to open every week in New York," have stopped appearing, according to Aiming Feng, an accountant and leading business advisor to nail shops.

Salons once provided a steady source of jobs for undocumented immigrants; now many owners say they'll hire only legal workers who've completed an occupational licensing program because they're afraid of getting in trouble.

Nail Salon Industry Protest, October 6, 2015. |||In September, two industry groups filed a discrimination lawsuit over the wage-bond mandate in New York State Supreme Court on the grounds that the state has unfairly singled out an Asian-dominated industry.

Another group has organized multiple protests, including a demonstration on October 6 in front of The New York Times Company's offices in midtown Manhattan. "Apology Now, Fire Nir!" was printed on one sign at the protest; "Shame On You New York Times, Your Lies Kill Our Shops," read another.

Another protest is scheduled at 11a.m. today in front of the Times building.

I'm not the first reporter to scrutinize Nir's reporting. In July, Richard Bernstein, a 24-year veteran of the Times who left the paper in 2006, published "What the Times Got Wrong About Nail Salons" in the online edition of The New York Review of Books. His knowledge of the industry comes through his wife, Zhongmei Li, who owns and manages two nail salons in Manhattan.

Bernstein charged that Nir's story focused on a small segment of the industry while ignoring the vast majority of nail salons, which pay above the minimum wage and hire only licensed manicurists. His piece specifically challenged the Times' claim that the Asian-language newspapers are "rife" with manicurist ads offering shockingly low wages. After Bernstein's story appeared, the Times' editors penned a public letter offering new evidence to support Nir's claim.

As I'll explain, the Times editors mistranslated and misconstrued that new evidence, which actually validates Bernstein's argument.

Nir and her editors declined my interview requests. Instead, a Times spokesperson provided a prepared statement, asserting that the paper is "extremely proud" of the series and pointing to the high number of labor violations discovered by Cuomo's inspection task force since the series appeared.

Those labor violations don't reveal what the Times claims they do. In its zeal to cite the government's ex post vindication of its own reporting, the paper further obfuscated what's really happening in the industry.

My look at Nir's reporting and its shortcomings will appear in three installments. First, I'll revisit the Times' back-and-forth with Bernstein and explain why the paper's claim that manicurists are paid shockingly low wages is based on shoddy research and misconstrued evidence.

Next, I'll look at Cuomo's inspection task force, the fines and violations being handed out to salon owners, and how the governor's actions have had the unintended consequence of making it harder for undocumented immigrants to get jobs in nail salons. (That article is now online here.)

The third installment will look at the Times' claim that chemicals present in nail salons are causing cancer and miscarriages, which is based on nonexistent evidence. (Click here to read part three.)

Job Ads "Paying So Little" They "Appear To Be a Typo"

In an early paragraph in the Times' first story in the nail salon series, we read:

Asian-language newspapers are rife with classified ads listing manicurist jobs paying so little the daily wage can at first glance appear to be a typo. Ads in Chinese in both Sing Tao Daily and World Journal for NYC Nail Spa, a second-story salon on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, advertised a starting wage of $10 a day. The rate was confirmed by several workers.

Richard Bernstein, who rightly called this paragraph a "linchpin" of Nir's first article, was incredulous that anyone would advertise a day wage of $10 given that his wife must guarantee wages of about ten times that to attract qualified applicants. So he went looking through the classifieds in back issues of the Chinese-language newspaper, The World Journal, and couldn't find a single ad that mentioned wages under $70 per day. He found one ad offering to pay between $110 and $130 peNail Salon Industry Protest, October 6, 2015. |||r day.

Other than the $10 ad that Nir references—which I'll return to in a moment—Nir doesn't cite any other specific ads paying wages so low they "appear to be a typo." But after Bernstein highlighted this passage in The New York Review of Books, Times editors Dean Baquet, Wendell Jamieson, and Michael Luo co-signed a letter defending Nir's reporting.

Their letter cites three more ads to support Nir's claim:

One [ad] from June 19, 2014, in the World Journal, for example, showed a starting wage of $40 a day for "small job"…Another ad from July 17, 2014 in The World Journal also showed a $40 a day wage. And another one from April 17, 2014 showed a pay range of $40 to $90 a day. These examples were taken from a random sampling of days.

The Times editors also posted high-resolution copies of the three ads to the photo-sharing site Flickr, but, somewhat suspiciously, the Chinese characters are out of focus and my translator couldn't decipher them. So I went to The World Journal's headquarters in Queens and obtained new copies of the ads, which I've posted here.

The ads don't say what the Times editors claim they do. Two of the ads they cite actually say that a mani/pedi costs $40 at the salon, not that a worker would be paid $40. Why include such a detail in a job ad? It implies big tips.

The first one translates as: "UV gel, big jobs, experienced small jobs, and cosmeticians. Flushing pickup and drop-off. Mani/Pedi $40 with commission, good percentage tips, may file taxes."

The second one reads: "Seeking UV gel experienced big jobs, small jobs, and cosmeticians. Pickup and drop-off at Flushing, Mani/Pedi $40 or more, expensive jobs."The ad actually says that a mani/pedi costs $40. |||

Both ads were posted by Michael Ling, the owner of a nail salon in Fairfield, Connecticut. (The World Journal is a regional paper). In an interview conducted through a translator, Ling confirmed that what the ad said is correct. He included the price of a mani/pedi to entice potential employees by indicating that the store serves a wealthy, and likely generous, clientele.

The third ad the Times editors produced in response to Bernstein offers a wage of "$40-90." I interviewed the salon owner who posted that ad, David Lee. His shop went out of business in 2014, in part, he says, because he struggled to attract enough qualified manicurists. Lee says he was offering full-time workers a base salary of $90 per day and part-time workers $40 per day.

The $10 Ad

The only remaining evidence that the Asian-language newspapers are "rife" with ads listing "jobs paying so little the daily wage can at first glance appear to be a typo" is the $10 ad Nir specifically referenced.

"[I]t’s not clear whether the reporter saw the ad at all," Richard Bernstein wrote in the New York Review of Books.

It turns out Nir did see the ad, but once again it doesn't say what the Times claimed it does. The day Bernstein's article appeared, Nir posted an image of the ad to Twitter:

That ad (Nir later tweeted a magnified version) actually offers to pay manicurists $75 per day in base pay; under that, it notes that "apprentices," or "trainees," can earn $10 per day.

What does it mean to be a "trainee?" Was Nir wrong to leave that detail out?

"Lest there be confusion...these are not the equivalent of unpaid summer interns at a magazine," wrote the Times editors in their defense of Nir's reporting. "Interviews by Ms. Nir and her team with employees of the salon confirmed that these were essentially beginning workers, doing the same jobs as others in the salon," they wrote.

But the salon owner who posted the ad disputes the Times’ characterization—as does one former apprentice who answered that $10 ad back in 2014.

"We would never let them touch customers," said Yun Jun Long, the former owner of NYC Nail Spa, in an interview conducted through a translator. "If the customer is spending money, you can't stick them with an inexperienced worker." (Long's salon went out of business a month after the Times' story appeared, which he attributes to the negative publicity. He's now helping to organize the recent protests.)

The $10, he says, was meant to cover subway fare and lunch, and those who signed on could come and go as they pleased. During slow periods they could practice on other employees or receive lessons from Long's wife and mother-in-law—partners in the business who also worked in the store.Yun Jun Long, the former owner of NYC Nail Spa. |||

At my request, Long put me in touch with Jay, a 28-year old undocumented immigrant and former trainee at NYC Nail Spa who asked that I not include his full name. Through a translator, Jay confirmed that he never worked on a customer for the two weeks when he was making just $10 per day.

Nir has said on Twitter that she visited NYC Nail Spa six times. (Long recalls seeing her come into the store just once.) Even if that's true, it wouldn't be surprising if she misreported what was actually going on in the shop; at several points in her coverage, Nir muddled what apprenticeship programs of this sort are all about.

The main character in the first installment of the series was a 20-year-old Chinese immigrant named Jing Ren, who also went through an apprenticeship program. Without any prior experience doing nails, she got a job working unpaid for her first three months. Ren was also initially asked to pay $100 to the owner of her salon for teaching her basic skills.

Times readers may find this practice reprehensible, but Nir left out background details that might lessen their outrage. These apprentice programs are an alternative to going through one of the New York State-certified nail training programs, where tuition is about $1,000 and students must complete 250 hours of formal training before getting licensed. It was technically illegal to work as a manicurist without completing one of these training programs when Nir was doing her reporting. (In July, two months after the Times series appeared, the state passed a bill creating a legal pathway to learn on the job, which I'll discuss in the next installment in this series.)

This type of arrangement is by no means an industry norm, but some salon owners flouted the law because they had more customers than employees; generally, the demand for skilled labor outpaces the number of licensed manicurists the beauty schools can mint. They got away with it because enforcement was lax.

Like Jay, Jing Ren had the option of spending about a month and a half studying at a state-certified school and paying $1,000 to learn her craft. Instead, she opted to pay $100 and work for no pay for three months. It’s not clear that Nir ever asked Ren why she made that choice.

Jay, who was in debt when he started as a trainee at NYC Nail Spa, couldn't afford beauty school. The apprenticeship program worked out for him: Now he's employed as a manicurist at a salon in New Jersey, where his daily base pay is $90, not including tips.

The apprenticeship program also worked out for Jing Ren, who by the end of the Times story was making $65 a day in base compensation.

Are Apprenticeship Programs Prevalent in the Nail Industry?

Nir declares that "[Jing Ren's] deal was the same as it is for beginning manicurists in almost any salon in the New York area." (Italics mine.)

Yet she provides no proof for this statement, and all the available evidence indicates that Ren's deal was unusual. There are 30,610 licensed manicurists in New York State, all of whom would have had no need for an apprenticeship program. According to the Korean-American Nail Salon Association, there are more than 7,000 shops.

Nir supports this claim with anecdotal examples, including a disputed paragraph about a shop called May's Nail Salon, located on 14th Street:

Step into the prim confines of almost any salon and workers paid astonishingly low wages can be readily found. At May's…new employees must pay $100, then work unpaid for several weeks, before they are started at $30 or $40 a day, according to a worker. A man who identified himself as the owner, but would give his name only as Greg, said the salon did not charge employees for their jobs, but would not say how much they are paid.

The owner of May's Nail Salon is actually a woman named Bao Mei Fitzgibbons, who goes by "Mei." Greg, who Nir mistook as the owner, is an employee at the shop. Nir could easily have found Fitzgibbons' name by searching New York State's online corporation and business entity database.

Fitzgibbons says she was never interviewed by Nir, and scoffed when I asked if she charges new employees $100. "Think about it," Fitzgibbons says, "you work for me and I charge you $100?" The framed licenses of Fitzgibbons' employees are prominently displayed on the wall of her shop, indicating that they went through the official, state-authorized training program.

Fitzgibbons says she observed Nir come into her store and engage one of her manicurists in conversation without a translator. According to Fitzgibbons, the woman, who barely speaks English, later said that she was misquoted in the Times. The manicurist says she told Nir—again according to Fitzgibbons—that there are salons out there that charge trainees $100; she didn't say that May's is one of them.

(On my behalf, Fitzgibbons reached out to the manicurist interviewed by Nir, who no longer works at the store. Fitzgibbons says the woman declined my interview request on the grounds that "she doesn't want publicity.")

In another case, Nir spent time reporting at a salon that hires only licensed manicurists trained at a beauty school but left it out of her coverage.

ThinkPink is a small chain of nail salons in Manhattan run by Eun Hye Lee (she goes by "Grace"), who says she was interviewed by Nir. Lee, who is careful to maintain her books to the letter of the law, granted my request to inspect her payroll records. They showed that one experienced manicurist at ThinkPink's West Village branch had earned $680 in base pay, plus $216 in overtime, totaling $896 for a 48.5 hour week. A beginning manicurist in the same shop earned $493 for a 39-hour workweek, or $12.64 per hour.

Lee says Nir first interviewed her at ThinkPink in 2014. Several months later, she returned unannounced and asked for a pedicure. She struck up a conversation with her manicurist, a Chinese immigrant named Xiao Su, who goes by Zoey.

Lee put me in touch with Su, who no longer works at ThinkPink. She said in a phone interview that she told Nir that the pay at ThinkPink was "very good" and that Lee was a good boss who's always "very nice." She declined to tell Nir her salary, deeming it a rude question. Su, who emigrated from China in 1997, is a licensed technician who attended manicurists' school.

Neither ThinkPink, nor Nir's interview with Lee, were mentioned in the Times' coverage.

More Evidence of Low Wages?

To gauge the average pay for manicurists, Nir might have turned first to the federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The agency reported that in 2014, manicurists in New York's metropolitan area earned an average hourly wage of $9.19 per hour. It also reports an annual mean wage of $19,110.

BLS data, which is routinely cited in the Times, is subject to error and certainly overly precise. But in this case, these figures are the best information available. And the numbers indicate that the average manicurist earns above the minimum wage.

Instead of citing the BLS' numbers, however, Nir relied on her own survey that included "more than 100 workers." In fact, other than the classified ads, this is her main piece of evidence that the "vast majority" of salon workers earn less than the minimum wage.

Nir collected the data on the streets of Queens early in the morning, where salon owners (mostly from Long Island) often pick up manicurists in vans and drive them to work, and in chats that she struck up with manicurists (many of whom aren't native English speakers) while having her nails done.Nail Salon Industry Protest, October 6, 2015. |||

In an interview with the Times about her series after it appeared, Nir says she kept "detailed spreadsheets" with this information. I asked for a copy of these spreadsheets. She declined my request.

Gathering data of this sort is inherently difficult, even for professionals. Pollsters at organizations like Gallup, Pew, and BLS strive to reach population samples that mirror the broader communities they're studying. They carefully frame questions in an unbiased manner, and only impartial interviewers do the asking. Under the best of circumstances, figures derived with these methods are imprecise and reporters generally cite them along with a margin of error.

Economists are skeptical of the wage survey data collected by the BLS because it's based on trust and memory. (How many hours did you work last week?) The gold standard in wage data—reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis—is derived from documentation that companies are required to provide the government related to unemployment insurance.

The Times might have hired a polling firm to improve on the BLS' finding. Instead, it relied on Nir's survey, which was drawn from a non-representative sample and carried out by a reporter who won't share her methodology, question phrasing, or tabulated results. There’s simply no reason to believe that Nir’s data presents an accurate, representative picture of nail industry wages.

Also, Nir’s report doesn’t discuss gratuities. In fact, nowhere does the Times coverage attempt to gauge average daily tips in the industry or what workers actually take home in total compensation.

This is like writing a 7,000-word piece on what waiters make for a living but focusing only on base compensation. "There should have been several paragraphs on the subject," says Aiming Feng, the accountant and business consultant who counts about 50 nail salons as clients. (Feng also volunteers once a week at once a week at the Lin Sing Association, a social service organization in Manhattan's Chinatown, where he helps manicurists with legal and tax issues.)

Feng says that during "sandal season" at many shops tips equal or exceed base compensation.

Another "Damning" Piece of Evidence?

Nir offers more proof that the "vast majority" of manicurists earn less than the minimum wage: a two-sentence summary quote derived from an interview with Sangho Lee, the president of the Korean-American Nail Salon Association.

Nir writes:

[Lee] declined a request to address issues of underpayment. So many owners do not pay minimum wage, he said, that he believed answering any questions would hurt the industry.

In their letter defending Nir's reporting, the Times editors highlighted Lee's testimony as among "the most damning findings."

These two sentences came from the roughly two-and-a-half hours Nir spent interviewing Lee on two occasions. First, she met with him in person at the Association's office in Flushing, Queens with a Korean translator named Jiha Ham present. She later did a follow-up interview over the phone without a translator. According to Lee, Nir's paraphrase of his statement comes from the second interview.

Sangho Lee says The New York Times misquoted him. ||| Jim EpsteinLee says that he was misquoted. "I told her that like any industry, there are nail salons that pay less and have worse conditions," he said. "Then I told her that even though 80 to 90 percent of the industry pays much more than the minimum wage, it would inappropriate for me to say anything negative about the industry as the president of the leading industry association."

Is Lee telling the truth that Nir distorted his comments? Since there were no third-party witnesses to the conversation, there's no way to know. But it's hard to believe that Lee would disparage the nail salon industry.

Founded 28 years ago, the Korean-American Nail Salon Association's mission is to promote best practices in the industry. It has 1,200 dues-paying member stores. A thick glossy magazine published annually by the Association includes letters from elected officials lauding nail salons for their contribution to the local economy. The group also awards an annual $1,000 scholarship to six college students whose parents work as manicurists in its members' shops.

So why would the president of an industry organization undo decades of hard public relations work by making a "damning" statement to a Times reporter? Maybe Nir misconstrued his remarks: Lee barely speaks English, and yet Nir interviewed him over the phone without a translator on the line.

How the Times Responded to a Salon Owner's Attempt to Correct the Record

Nir writes that at Iris Nails on Manhattan's Upper East Side "longtime workers described starting out at wages of $30 and $40 a day."

It's hard to believe that even beginning manicurists at Iris Nails would earn such meager pay. Located in one of New York City's wealthiest neighborhoods, Iris is the type of shop manicurists aspire to work at for the generous tips.

When reporting the story, Nir left a message for Iris Nails' owner, a Korean immigrant named Alex Park. He says he didn't return her message because he didn't understand the nature of the request.

When Park attempted to defend his reputation after the article appeared, the Times thwarted his efforts. The whole episode highlights the power imbalance between the Times and an immigrant community lacking in media savvy.Nail Salon Industry Protest, October 6, 2015. |||

Park emphatically denies that his workers earn so little in base pay. He estimates that his lowest-level employees earn about $180 a day, including tips, and his most experienced employees can earn as much as $400 per day including tips and commission. (Park declined to allow me to examine his wage statements.)

After the article appeared, Park hired attorney Daniel Kim to contact the Times and demand a correction. Kim had a back and forth with the company's assistant general counsel, David McCraw. (Through a spokesperson, McGraw declined my request for an interview.) The paper refused to alter the online version of the article, and it didn't investigate the truthfulness of Park's claim. Instead, Kim says, McCraw agreed that the Times would print a letter to the editor written by Park.

Kim shared with me the letter Park submitted to Sue Mermelstein, an editor in the paper's letters department:

To the Editor:

Your recent article "The High Price of Pretty Nails" will damage my business, Iris Nails. It seems that you needed a nail salon in a well-heeled neighborhood and targeted my business.

I am preparing to retire after having worked for more than 22 years without any incident. Many of the employees in this type of services business have learned, earned and moved on to open their own shops. I have always treated all of my employees fairly and never took advantage of them. There is no employee who receives $30 to $40 a day on a full-time basis. There is no employee who receives below the minimum wages required by the State of New York. In fact, most of our employees make double of minimum wages including tips. Korean-American business owners in New York are very hard-working people. We have dedicated our lives to whichever field afforded us an opportunity to prosper and live out the American dream. I write this letter with great sorrow and anger.

The Times did print a version of the letter on May 17—but with notable changes.

First, it cut out Park's assertion that the paper had erred in its reporting. These three sentences were dropped:

There is no employee who receives $30 to $40 a day on a full-time basis. There is no employee who receives below the minimum wages required by the State of New York. In fact, most of our employees make double of minimum wages including tips.

In their place, the Times added a new sentence that reads, "I am committed to abiding by the law in paying my employees." In other words, the rewrite makes it sound as if Park was conceding that the Times' reporting on his store was not only correct, but that it inspired him to reform his illegal practices.

Times editor Sue Mermelstein said in a phone interview that there was an extensive back-and-forth with attorney McGraw over the wording of the letter. "We don't have the resources to go out and check the facts," she says, "and we didn't want to let him make a statement that we felt was inaccurate."

So they decided to cut out Park's contention that the coverage was inaccurate and replaced it with a line that McGraw "felt comfortable with because it's not a factual statement."

The Times ran the new wording by Kim and Park, and they signed off on it. 

Attorney Kim doesn't recall the specific details, but says his client decided not to pursue the matter any further because he's "afraid of The New York Times."

Did the Times Get the Story Right Anyway?

Nir's claim that manicurists earn shockingly low wages was based on mistranslated and misconstrued classified ads, anecdotes and interviews contested by her sources, and an anecdotal survey that she used in place of official data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yet did she still get the story right? In response to Nir's critics, the Times has pointed to the high number of minimum wage violations reported by the state Department of Labor since the article appeared.

In the next piece in this series, I'll scrutinize those violations and explain why, in fact, they don't show what the Times claims. (That article is now online here.)

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  • SIV||

    TL:DR

  • Sevo||

    Yep.
    "The "great lesson" here is actually something different. I've spent the last several weeks re-reporting aspects of Nir's story and interviewing her sources."
    Great. Give us a GOOD summary and a link. This is a blog; learn to write for it, or lose audience.

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    I ordered this free steak medium rare, not rare plus!

  • GILMORE™||

    ""And you expect me to chew it myself!? The Nerve!!"""

  • Quixote||

    I would not recommend eating any kind of meat, because it causes cancer. But the real problem here is the presupposition that the NYTimes has to do "accurate" reporting on topics of public concern. I see similar inappropriate accusations accompanying the documentation of America's leading criminal satire case at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    "Press accounts of the case include a New York Times item by Jim Dwyer and a lengthy article by John Leland. Mr. Leland’s article contains several inaccurate quotations and additional errors, including the false and misleading assertions that....," etc.

    Or, elsewhere in the same blog: "Many reports... closely adhered to the characterization of the facts presented in the District Attorney’s press releases, without mentioning satire.... More recent treatments have continued to conceal or misrepresent the contents of [the] criminalized writings, as well as the nature of the claims being made by the People of New York in the case. These treatments include a New York Times article... which misleadingly asserts....," etc., etc.

    The problem with all of this is that it simply does not matter. Reporters always hone in on what the public wants to know by choosing an angle to pursue, and their treatment of the "facts" will necessarily reflect that angle. The only question is whether the angle coincides with what we all want to hear, and the Times usually gets it right.

  • DenverJ||

    Hammer that square peg into that round hole.

  • Quixote||

    I would have at ye with my lance! 'Tis no square peg we face, nor a round hole. The sly objection was made that the article doesn't live up to what we expect from a blog; the rebuke was then offered that some people are not happy if their "steak" is not just as they like it; and my comment on this exchange is that it matters not one way or the other, because whether or not the steak is rare or well done, it is a steak made from a heap of rotten flesh, for the worthy reporters of the NYTimes must always present the "facts" in a manner appropriate to their theme, regardless of a few little "inaccuracies" that some might find objectionable, and those who seek to make a scandal of this basic aspect of journalism are simply ignorant of the politics of networking, of the place occupied by the NYTimes in the "net," and of other aspects of the fundamental role that institutions like the NYTimes play in our great American society.

  • GILMORE™||

    The NYT ignored/misrepresented facts to pump a fake narrative of 'exploitation'. That's criminal misconduct by the so-called "paper of record". Nir and her editor should be banned from anything other than gossip columns.

  • Quixote||

    That's nonsense, my dear fellow. You only say the narrative is "fake" because you don't appreciate the NYT's actual role in society and the fact that the narrative fits the theme dictated by that role. "Facts" can always be seen in one way or another according to one's perspective.

  • Quixote||

    P.s. take my example again: the NYT also stands accused of misrepresenting (and even concealing) various facts in its treatment of a prosecution which, according to the chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals in Albany, is nothing short of an "atavistic" assault on the First Amendment. The resulting article undoubtedly had an influence on the decision of various other judges in that case; indeed, it may have contributed to the sentence of incarceration imposed on the criminal defendant.

    Now, as some readers may be aware, I happen to believe that these accusations are inappropriate, and that the NYT did exactly what needed to be done to further the criminalizing of excessively deadpan Gmail "parodies" in the United States. And it is should be pointed out that most members of the "First Amendment community" apparently agree with me, because no one is showing the slightest indignation about these claimed "misrepresentations" or "inaccuracies" in the NYT's treatment of that case. So your attitude towards the "inaccuracies" in an article will depend on certain other underlying attitudes.

  • plusafdotcom||

    Home in on...

  • Sevo||

    BiMonSciFiCon|10.27.15 @ 12:42AM|#
    "I ordered this free steak medium rare, not rare plus!"
    You seem happy to eat what's given you regardless of what's available.
    Help yourself, but I fail to see why you're griping about those who don't. Ditto for G.

  • Nick W B||

    Uh, they aren't griping. They are mocking you. A bit of a difference.

  • GILMORE™||

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Statler and Waldorf

  • ||

    Damn you Gilmore. 7 minutes - poof - just like that.

  • rudehost||

    "Great. Give us a GOOD summary and a link. This is a blog; learn to write for it, or lose audience."

    Translation: I have the attention span of a gnat.

  • DarrenM||

    Can't get it on Twitter.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    WTFTL:DR

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I, for one, welcome Epstein's new eschewing of the multipage format. I'd like to remind him that as a trusted commenting personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to read his well-written New York Times rebuttals.

  • Illocust||

    I second loving the one page format. It is so much more convenient to have everything on one page instead of clicking through to multiple.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    All the news that's fit to print.

    Grey Lady down.

  • GILMORE™||

    Jim = I have not read the full piece yet either (scowls at SIV)...

    ...but thank you for doing this. This is the sort of "Holding Establishment-Media Narratives To Account"-reporting I've been waiting for from Reason (or anyone) for the last few years.

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    Agreed. I'm glad reason is committed to doing this sort of thing. Hopefully this gets some traction and the NYT is forced to respond.

  • NebulousFocus||

    Seconded.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Thirded. Thank you for writing this, Jim, and I look forward to the other installments.

  • SimonJester||

    I am loathe to agree with CJ (Most of his comments feel like I need to use lye for eyewash), but here I agree. I enjoyed the article and look forward to more from you, Jim.

  • perlchpr||

    Lyewash.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    By "respond" you mean double down?

  • GILMORE™||

    Their prior "response" was so much blatant hubris -pretending that their "evidence" said what it did when any secondhand scrutiny showed the opposite.

    The scumbaggery Jim details when any of the "sources" challenged the Times' claims is nice color... but not as bad as their claims that Ads said things they didn't. Their "$10 a day" claims were pure fiction.

  • Trials and Trippelations||

    Maybe the NYT was trying to help its readers out by going all the difficult tax related math. The $10 wage is the $70 wage after taxes

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Yes, shame on SIV and others with short attention spans. This is fantastic digging, slow and tedious, the kind of stuff that wins awards and warms my cold cynical heart. This is what I send donations for. The short snarky stuff is fun, but this is what brings home the bacon.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Looks like a great article, but they should certainly do one of those deals where after a few paragraphs it says "click here for more."

  • GILMORE™||

  • gaoxiaen||

    How could you do that to such a cute furry animal? I'm shocked.

  • ||

    Didn't the asshole editor defend the piece?

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    Here, here!

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    I google fu'd Nir....Columbia Journalism School. I wonder if she's buddies with Erdley....liars of a feather, flock together.

  • d3x / dt3||

    I googled her as well, and I have just one question:

    Why the long face?

  • GILMORE™||

    Its a genetic sign of royalty

  • Illocust||

    Huh, that's actually an interesting coincidence. I wonder if there is something about how that particular school teaches its journalist that encourage shoddy work.

  • Rhywun||

    Being a pipeline to NYT almost guarantees it.

  • H. Protagonist||

    Seriously, no translator?

    Were this from another source, we'd be subject to a long discourse on how much racism and privilege is contained in Ms. Nir, and that led her to butcher this article so badly.

  • DarrenM||

    It's a paternalistic "I know better than you" racism. It lacks any respect for the subject or the reader.

  • GILMORE™||

    " First, I'll revisit the Times' back-and-forth with Bernstein and explain why the paper's claim that manicurists are paid shockingly low wages is based on shoddy research and misconstrued evidence....Next, I'll look at Cuomo's inspection task force..."

    I think it might also be helpful to add some mention of the NYCOSH astroturfing the issue. They seem to have organized their "Healthy Nails Coalition" almost simultaneous with the release of the story... ginning up the impression that there's some bottom-up criticism of the industry while its all being puppeteer'd by SEIU/AFSCME goons looking to crush some new category of small business in hopes of creating new clients.

  • SimonD||

    As quickly as everything seemed to happen, one of my first thoughts was that the effort was co-ordinated as well. I also would not be surprised to find that the state was also aware of the story before it actually ran. I wonder if anyone has looked into Nir's relationships (i.e.: with a union wanting new members, or a government-endorsed crony salon).

  • Win Bear||

    According to the web page, the social justice warriors (National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, NAPAWF), and the lawyers (Environmental Justice Project of New York Lawyers for The Public Interest, NYLPI) are getting their cut too.

  • Suellington||

    Fuck the ADA. I just found out this morning that I can no longer use one of the only bathrooms that is available to me. I drive around the city all day to different jobs and many times don't have access to a toilet. One of the few that I can always count on is at my main parts warehouse. They were told by the city that they can no longer have anyone use their bathroom except for employees and locked it. The reason is because it is not an ADA bathroom, never mind that it is on the second floor of an old warehouse. I pissed on the street today and will most likely have to shit in a bucket in the future or drive over to the Mickey D's, wait in line and buy a coffee to use the fucking toilet.

  • some guy||

    No one at the McDonalds cares if you stop in to use the toilet without buying anything. At least I've never been to one where anyone cares. They get so much traffic during the day that they probably won't even notice. And even if they do, they get so much traffic that you're not really adding anything to the cost of cleaning the place. And last, but not least, they know that good will is worth something, and besides you'll probably be back to buy something at some point anyway.

  • d3x / dt3||

    It's recycled into the food, so you're actually helping them out.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    In DC, McDonald's have a coin box on the restroom door. I think it's 10 cents

  • DenverJ||

    Department stores are the best, and malls. Usually empty-ish during work hours ;)

  • SimonJester||

    What the hell does the American Dental Association have to do with where you poop?

  • The Master McMonocle||

    Good stuff, Jim, I couldn't stop reading. For all the talk of Trump's hatred of immigrants, I don't see people like Nir too far off. She's done her best to strip these workers of their agency, then can't be bothered when they counter her narrative. I'll take openly disdainful over closeted condescension. Looking forward to part 2.

  • Pogue Mahon||

    Great job Jim, super in-depth, and a thorough take-down. Merciless pants-ing.

  • Steve G||

    Asian-dominated industry

    Good news! The state has a solution to that too!!

  • Swiss Servator||

    You know what other state had a solution?

  • d3x / dt3||

    Finally!

  • some guy||

    Every elements triple-point... except helium.

  • DenverJ||

    Entropy?

  • ||

    Great story. I have no idea how the owner of the store who had his letter to the editor changed didn't burn down the Times offices.

    Times editor Sue Mermelstein said in a phone interview that there was an extensive back-and-forth with attorney McGraw over the wording of the letter. "We don't have the resources to go out and check the facts," she says, "and we didn't want to let him make a statement that we felt was inaccurate."

    Huh, somehow you had the resources to print a story that said he only paid workers $30 to $40 a day, but don't have any resources to check the facts of his statement?

    Seems to me you should be able to go to your reporter's notes and have her show you the proof that she used to print the original statement.

  • ||

    That line stood out to me as well! It was like a blinking neon sign! Coming from an editor, too! I just ate-I better go!

  • Win Bear||

    Errors, lack of fact checking, and outright lying are standard behavior at newspapers, including the NYT, as far as I can tell.

  • DarrenM||

    It's the story that matters. Not whether it's true.

  • steedamike||

    Good ol' confirmation bias!

  • Slammer||

    "We don't have the resources to go out and check the facts," she says, "

    WTF?

  • lap83||

    Then don 't write about it at all. Was that so hard? Or do you just want to make shit up?

  • Princess Trigger||

    It's just not part of their job.

  • Nick W B||

    I like that they have higher fact checking standards for letters to the editor than for their "journalists".

  • SimonJester||

    This was my thought. The extent of their fact checking is, "Hey comrade, did you make up more the 40% of this, or do you have some "detailed excell spreadsheets" we can lose?" "Yep, to industry standards, no more than 59.9% of this article was out of my ass!"

  • Raven Nation||

    Didn't the NYT fact check an SNL skit not long ago?

  • Suicidy||

    IF true, the NYT's needs to pack it in, or just admit they do nothing but write gibbering editorials and progressive fan fiction.

  • Rockabilly||

    File next to :

    NYT Judith Miller WMD

    where is Saddam's nuculur bomb?

    http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/media/features/9226/

  • d3x / dt3||

    They could just add some anonymous government sources, and this story would be NYT-perfect!

  • american socialist||

    "Protests"

    Sniff, sniff... What's that smell? It's plasticky, possibly green, and used in conjunction with lawn chairs. Was it nail salon workers showing up at protests or nail salon owners?

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/prote.....d=26664314

  • ||

    "Nope, the Coalition for Affordable City has other priorities. The group has spent more than $9 million to defeat a single item on Tuesday’s local ballot in San Francisco. Proposition E would impose a tax on sugary drinks -- $0.02 per ounce -- and earmark the proceeds for programs to educate children about healthier lifestyle choices as part of a city effort to reduce childhood obesity."

    Can you spot the misleading sentence with a dash of misplaced smugness?

    Let me help you along. Arguing it's 'just' .02 cents per ounce is an age old marketing tactic. Thinks 'For just $1 a day' you can help feed a child'. When I used to sell children's encyclopedias (oh yes I did - for one month! Nice books too) I was trained to say stuff like 'it's just $2 a day! Put it in a jar!' as a way to "shame" customers into depriving their children of education.

    What that guy did is no different. .02 cents in of itself is peanuts. But on 24 ounces that's essentially .25 cents. And for a low-income individual who probably buys, say, six, that's well over a $1 and has an impact on his finances. They feel the pinch. But to people like the writer, or politicians or nannies or even Amsoc, that's the price to pay for fighting obesity and civilization.

    Fairness you can believe in.

  • ||

    Self-editing bot: 'His' should be 'they' for grammatical consistency. Apologies.

  • B. Woodrow Chippenhaus||

    2 cents times 24 ounces is 48 cents.

    But figure a 12-pack of soda has 144 ounces, so that's an extra $2.88. Who's going to be ore affected? The poor, or the wealthy?

    Hmmm.....

  • ||

    Oops. Sorry. Not sure where I got that. But yeah.

  • ||

    My whole comment is a grammatical/mathematical nightmare.

  • DenverJ||

    That's ok, people here will/have fix(ed) it. Your point is salient.

  • d3x / dt3||

    I liked the "earmarked for" part. Like it wouldn't fucking end up in a general slush fund.

  • Rhywun||

    ^This

  • Rhywun||

    And you know what? Who the hell cares where the opposition is coming from? It's about time somebody showed up and tried to put a stop to this endless ratcheting up of government control over our lives.

  • Cap'n Krunch||

    Also remember to add that $0.02 to all of the other "it's just a penny" taxes placed on them already. Property taxes didn't become thousands of dollars overnight, they got that way a thousand "just $2 on a $100,000 home" bits at a time.

  • SugarFree||

    Single payer nail care for all!

  • Mr Lizard||

    Hey now, for some species this equates to health care

  • SugarFree||

    [breaks off your tail, eats it]

  • d3x / dt3||

    Ah, there you are to add nothing of value and defend whatever actions the state may want. You're pretty much 10 for 10 on that, national socialist.

  • american socialist||

    I don't understand really why we're even talking about this. The market bears what it will and workers should feel damn lucky that they get paid what they do. I'm glad that nail salon workers make-- on average-- $9/hr in the New York area, but citing that that figure is above what some apparatchik thinks should be a "floor" wage seems more like a defeat than a victory to me. There's an implied level of defensiveness in this article that should not be present since we all know unfettered free market capitalism-- including $2/hr wages for the retarded-- is the bestest ever.

  • sarcasmic||

    Like anyone would pay you $2/hr.

  • Loki||

    I might be willing to pay him $2/hr to repeatedly hit himself in the head with a tack hammer, but I'm pretty sure he already does that for free.

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    Which, AmSoc, is because you'd rather them be at home making $0 and reliant on the state for everything.

  • Cap'n Krunch||

    ^^ this

  • d3x / dt3||

    Way to STICK IT TO THE MAN!

    You GO, National Socialist!

    You've certainly convinced me.

  • rudehost||

    "There's an implied level of defensiveness in this article"

    Given the article is dismantling an SJW lie by one of your fellow travelers at a newspaper dedicated to dishonest propaganda I am surprised you don't properly recognize the article as offensive.

  • Jordan||

    Psst. Hey you. You know those poor, marginalized people you claim to give a shit about but actually don't? Yeah, well some of us find it outrageous that you presume to know better than them and as a result drive them further into poverty by destroying economic opportunity for them. But at least you have good intentions or something.

  • Suicidy||

    As someone who bailed on his mortgage and dumped it on the rest of us to pay it, you have no place criticizing anyone over financial matters. I fact, you have no place consuming the oxygen real humans need to survive. So you must stop. I suggest suicide.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    You know what other American socialist consistently invoked the racist "Yellow Peril" canard?

    (PROTIP: A metric fuckton of them

  • See Double You||

    Was it nail salon workers showing up at protests or nail salon owners?

    Sounds like both to me. And what's wrong with employers protesting the lies against them?

    Of course, to a socialist, owner = bad, worker = good. It's a childish, Manichean worldview. Go sit back down at the kiddie table, AmSoc.

  • Win Bear||

    Oh, I hope San Francisco will pass this! San Francisco should become a showcase for stupid over-regulation!

  • perlchpr||

    Sniff, sniff... What's that smell?

    Asshole socialist.

  • ||

    Agenda journalism - how many times does this record get played? Hello, Rolling Stone!

  • d3x / dt3||

    Did YOU go to Columbia School of Journalism?

    I DIDN'T THINK SO!!

  • rudehost||

    A journalism degree from anywhere is for the least common denominator ie the kind of people who couldn't make it in a STEM program. How much time does it really take to teach someone that they should gather facts that accurately reflect reality and express them without bias? Oddly after 4 years Columbia doesn't manage to teach what I managed to state in 1 sentence.

  • Glide||

    Why I would suck as a business owner: If the government claimed I needed to purchase insurance against the wage I myself set being too low, I would laugh at them and dare them to do something about it. What a silly premise.

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    At which point they come in and shut you down, with force if you resist.

  • Loki||

    +1 3:00am SWAT raid

  • sarcasmic||

    Nir, who spent 13 months on the project, said in an interview that she initially pitched the story as an "expose," adding that the "great lesson" readers should come away with is that there's "no such thing as a cheap luxury." The only way "you can have something decadent for a cheap price is by someone being exploited.

    Start with a predetermined conclusion, work backwards to the premise while ignoring anything that contradicts the conclusion, and have a bunch of like-minded people vote on the truthiness of what you wrote.

    Looks like science to me.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    The Times certainly exploits their readers' stupidity.

  • d3x / dt3||

    If only there were a government agency to prevent exploitation of the stupid. But that would be recursive.

  • Suicidy||

    AmSoc likely masturbates to Krugman's editorials.

  • Governor Squid||

    No, he demands the rest of us do it, and then he siphons off his share.

  • Suicidy||

    Of the jizz?

  • Jerryskids||

    The 'expose' is the truthiness of the fact that capitalism is evil because it depends on people exploiting other people for their own self-interest. The level of the exploitation matters little enough, whether it's ten dollars a day or a hundred dollars a day. I myself regularly maliciously exploit those hapless fools at Walmart by trading little pieces of paper for bagsful of valuable goods, for example. I do the same with Kroger and my mortgage company and the cable company, trading little pieces of paper for food and shelter and entertainment.

  • sarcasmic||

    Your personal trade deficit must be terrible, being that you take in all those imports without exporting anything. How do you survive?

  • chmercier||

    Exactly! NO matter the compensation, all interactions are exploitation. That's why we need a socialist paradise, where exploitation does not occur.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    Not only that, but you run a trade deficit with Walmart and Kroger…

  • SugarFree||

    Columbia School of Journalism has really been knocking it out of the park lately.

    It's a shame. It looks like her father led a useful life by helping people. His daughter is a hack journalist and his son is the political officer at Daily Kos.

  • See Double You||

    Just another example of how being a great person doesn't mean you'll produce great children.

  • GILMORE™||

    "the political officer at Daily Kos."

    His job

  • Loki||

    The New York Times: all the news that fits the narrative (and confirms our pre-conceived biases).

  • chmercier||

    The New York Times: We aren't lying if we say we aren't!

  • Microaggressor||

    Progs lie; people die.
    Grandpa Gulag approves.

  • gordo53||

    C'mon kids, good journalism is expensive. This is the price you pay for cancelling your Times subscription. They warned you, didn't they?

  • Eric Bana||

    Can someone send some hate mail to that bitch?

  • Suicidy||

    I could send a photo of myself naked. That's pretty hateful right there.

  • FreeRadical*||

    For what it's worth (= nothing), I sent an email with a link to this story to the "Public Editor" of the Times.

    public@nytimes.com

  • SimonJester||

    Check the Wikipedia file. They don't care and will stand by what they have said. They have made up their minds and aren't interested in the facts.

    "The rebuttal, and Nir's reporting have been found to be solid from numerous sources, including the Times' independent Public Editor."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Maslin_Nir

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    They will care when it gets them sued and they will care a lot more when they have to pay out money.

    That's what the fact checker's job really is — make sure it's true enough that they would win if sued.

  • NL_||

    So the NYT's problem, as I understand it: immigrants and their children are working for lower pay than college-educated native-born citizens living in Manhattan. And this means, apparently, that it should be illegal for immigrants to get low-paying jobs, unless they've already gone to college and those low-paying jobs are internships or entry-level drudgery to break into journalism, publishing, or politics.

  • DenverJ||

    Now you understand.

  • FreeRadical*||

    This reminds me of a long article from the Reason archives in the 70s about the Love Canal environmental disaster.

    It was a beautiful example of exhaustive research and utterly dismantled the mainstream narrative of what happened. Of course, the actual truth was that the corporation that was blamed was the only actor in the whole story that showed any actual concern, caution, and desire to not to cause harm. This truth, sadly, never did penetrate the public consciousness and in the minds of almost everyone, the saga will always be about an evil corporation poisoning our children.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    Reason needs more articles like the Love Canal article.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    Although, I did think the contractors did report that they found leaking 55 gallon barrels and reported them and the architect/engineer/whoever did say they couldn't build on that group because it was unstable.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    If the minimum wage would be repealed, no one would be making less than the minimum wage, so there wouldn't be a problem!

    This writer was so concerned that these workers didn't bring home enough money that she made them job less. They're so much better now.

  • DarrenM||

    Maybe they aren't, but this justifies hiring more bureaucrats, who will happen to be forced to belong and contribute to the union supporting the Democratic Party, to manage government subsidies to the unemployed.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    that too...they get paid to watch and care, while the problem they were tasked to solve gets worse

  • Win Bear||

    This writer was so concerned that these workers didn't bring home enough money that she made them job less. They're so much better now.

    But average salaries have increased! Success!

  • Imithohtar||

    Headline: NYT Lies! Fire Hot! Gravity Works!

  • DenverJ||

    I've figured out how to turn off gravity. (adjusts tri-corner tinfoil hat)

  • Frankjasper1||

    I know min wage prices some out of the labor market.

    But i wonder if having a price floor may keep others lower towards min wage and not allowing higher wages since the worker loses leverage of a starting point since it has been pre determined.

    Though this may be a bit contradictory. Dont want to doublethink like progs.

    Thoughts?

  • DenverJ||

    I don't know about leverage, but I could see some people saying " well the pay is higher than minimum wage, so that's good enough". I also think it raises other wages, because people who were making above minimum wage want a raise if minimum raises to match what they are currently making.

  • steedamike||

    NYT: Stop helping

  • Zunalter||

    "We don't have the resources to go out and check the facts,"

    Huh, you don't say.

  • JenniferKane||

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

    ...................... www.4cyberworks.com

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    Nir, who spent 13 months on the project, said in an interview that she initially pitched the story as an "expose," adding that the "great lesson" readers should come away with is that there's "no such thing as a cheap luxury." The only way "you can have something decadent for a cheap price is by someone being exploited."

    IOW, Nir doesn't want the the most common sort of people to have manicures or pedicures.

  • Win Bear||

    IOW, Nir spent 13 months goofing off.

  • XM||

    If there WAS widespread work violation, then you have to logically conclude that lax immigration was at least a contributing factor. There's no "diversity" among these nail salon workers, they're mostly undocumented, unlicensed Asian immigrant women who have incentive to agree to the owner's arrangement.

    Immigration reform to the rescue? But after these workers are legalized, do you allow them to work without a license? Send them to school and force them to lose hours? They would be in the system now, so the owners can't avoid paying their healthcare, benefits, etc.

    Free beauty school for all? At that point, there might be no point to coming to this country illegally. And those dastardly "natives" will mind illegals taking their spots in free college education.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Just what, recently, has the NYT written that was accurate, and not filled with errors?
    Their view of the forest (factual truths) has for decades been obscured by the trees (narrative lies).

  • First Name Last Name||

    Her article compared to this one appears to be like a half-assed high school paper.
    I posted a link to this article on her facebook, and she deleted it. Hmmm I wonder why.

  • TonyaPatterson||

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

    ---------- http://www.4cyberworks.com

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