Thursday, September 6, 2007

More Taxis on Park Avenue

On the morning of the second day of the taxi strike, more cabs could be seen cruising up and down Park Avenue in the East Eighties. The total number of cabs might have been slightly down from normal, but doormen on Park--who spent the first morning of the strike scrambling for hard-to-find taxis--agreed that there were more cabs on the street.

On street corners, most people trying to hail a cab caught a ride within a few minutes. In the press, the striking cabbies got a mixed reaction in the pages of the city's three major dailies.

My copy of the September 6 Post is headlined, "Fare Game: Cabbies Cash in as slackers strike." The depiction of the strikers went downhill from there. The main strike story on page three, "Lucky Taxi $cabs," argued that the strike was barely noticeable and had resulted in a jackpot for strikebreaking drivers. Andrea Peyser's column described a ride in a strikebreaking taxi as a delight.

But the bottom of the Post's coverage, as so often is the case, was reached on Page Six. There, a cartoon depicts a couple sitting in the back seat of a taxi. At the wheel of the cab sits an ape. One passenger says to the other, "See, the strike fizzled and everything is back to normal."

The Post may style itself as the paper of the average New Yorker, but when it comes to economic issues it has no interest in fairly presenting the taxi workers' case. And depicting the average driver as an ape, in an age when so many of our drivers are new immigrants, is a slur that doesn't belong in print.

While the Post depicted taxi drivers as apes, the Daily News and the Times showed a bit more humanity.

Michael Daly's column depicted the strike as a doomed fight against computerized "progress," but argued that the drivers have a legitimate complaint on the issue of electronic credit card readers: the use of them generates a five percent surcharge, of which only one third kicks back to the drivers. The News' editorial, "Give Cabbies Their Due," seconded Daly's point.

In the Times, James Barron's front-page story, "Cabs Are on Strike, but Are on the Street, Too," emphasized the inconveniences of passengers but also recognized that the strike had more impact than Mayor Bloomberg allowed. On the editorial page, the Times offered a balanced assessment of the strike and the need to make the Global Positioning Systems that sparked the walkout more palatable to drivers and useful to riders. New technology, the Times concluded, "has to serve both drivers and passengers."

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