Photo courtesy of Maria Azzurra Mugnai
Tough to mistake canines for quackers, but that is what an enterprising Minneapolis TV journalist did when trying to determine if a New York City Chinatown meat market was selling cuts of man's best friend.
WCCO reporter James Schugel called up a Dak Cheong Chinatown Meat Market and asked point blank if they sold dog for cuisine. The meat market man at the other end responded "yes" (Mediabistro has the transcript here).
So when Schugel’s report came out, the New York City authorities decided to investigate … and found no evidence of dog meat anywhere. It turns out the butcher thought Schugel was talking about duck, not dog.
How did WCCO initially respond? The news station pulled the story from its website, without an explanation or official retraction.
Days passed. The Minnesota branch of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association jointly called for WCCO to issue an apology. The rumor mill began firing -- would Schugel and editors be fired?
More than two weeks after the originally story aired, WCCO released a statement that was more indignant than repentant. MinnPost has the story on the statement.
From the WCCO statement:
So no apology from WCCO and a jab at the meat market for being investigated by New York twice. I guess when it comes to Asian food establishments, it’s presumed shady until proven innocent?
Asian restaurants have it no easier. Nationwide, people are calling owners of Asian food restaurants and setting up appointments for health and safety inspections.
But these callers are not real inspectors -- they are scammers trying to extract money from the restaurant illegally. This particular scam has become a frequent occurrence over the past two years in numerous states.
The scammers may actually be trying to set up fake Craigslist or eBay accounts using restaurant information, with the aim of selling fake services or merchandise to others, on those accounts. They target owners of Asian food restaurants, thinking that immigrants and non-English speakers can be confused or scared into compliance.
But restaurateurs have proven more savvy than the scammers anticipated. The owners know that inspectors rarely, if ever, call to schedule an inspection appointment. Legitimate inspectors show up unannounced. So when scammers announce they are calling to schedule an inspection, the red flags go up. One scammer happened to call a restaurant owner in Des Moines, IA, when an actual inspector was at the establishment.
Hyphen is going to have in-depth coverage of this nationwide scam. Stay tuned.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!