New York Times Rebukes Richard Bernstein

Dean Baquet and his top Metro editors are deeply disappointed with The New York Review of Books.

At the very end of a letter sent to The New York Review of Books by New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, metro editor Wendell Jamieson and deputy metro editor Michael Luo, Richard Bernstein, the author of a recent critique that was instantly disseminated across social media, gets a mild thumbs up:

We concede he made a valid point about certain positives in the industry that could have been amplified.

But the rest of the missive wags a very stern finger at Bernstein and the NYRB for publishing a mountain of unfounded accusations related to the Times’ two-part series “Unvarnished” by Sarah Maslin Nir, which detailed harrowing living and workplace conditions faced by nail salon workers. For example, the editors state that during her research, Nir found not one but three different April 2014 ads that offered a $10 daily wage for nail salon apprentices.

Bernstein’s article, which garnered instant social media traction this past Sunday, now stands in serious need of a correction or perhaps even a full retraction. The insider’s advantage that at first glance seemed to give credence to former Gray Lady staff member Bernstein’s take – his co-ownership of two area salons – seems instead to have been the reason for his narrow view of the NYC nail salon and health spa world.*

*Update (July 31):
Bernstein has posted a solid response to the NYT letter, using some of its very ammunition to once again turn the tables. In so doing, he belies our conclusion stated above:

Finally, nearly three months after I made my first inquiries, the Times editors have supplied the information I was seeking. The [classified newspaper] ad appeared three times in April 2014, more than twelve months before the Times story ran. And it turns out to be quite different from the way it was described by the paper. The ad indeed offered $10 a day salaries to what it called xue-tu in Chinese, apprentices or trainees. But now for the first time we learn that that was a secondary element in the ad. The primary element, signaled in the ad’s headline, was an offer of jobs for manicurists paying $75 a day—the figure “$75” printed in large type—an important fact that was somehow omitted in the original exposé.

Let’s remember what the Times reported on this matter of ads. “Asian-language newspapers,” it asserted, “are rife with classified ads listing manicurist jobs paying so little the daily wage can at first glance appear to be a typo.” In their rejoinder, the Times editors have not challenged my finding that no such ads could be found in 2015 in any of the Asian-language newspapers (note the plural) that its story declared to be “rife” with them. Perhaps more recent such ads exist, and the Times and I, combing through thousands of classifieds, have missed them. But they must be rare.

… The [NYT] editors also for the first time acknowledge that the few ads from 2014 they have now produced that offer illegally low pay are for apprentices or trainees, not for regular workers. In such a way they concede one of the main points of my critique, which is that pay for regular, licensed manicurists is far higher — around the $75 a day indicated in that ad of April 2014 and that was incompletely described. ($75 a day for a ten-hour day would be above minimum-wage requirements for workers who also receive tips.)

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@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.