In a devastating profile in New York Magazine, Jessica Bruder tells the story of Doug Schifter, a New York City black-car driver who saw Uber’s disruption of the taxi industry decimate his income. After trying to organize drivers to seek stronger regulations — and suffering a string of health issues that ate up what savings he had — he made one last statement: he shot himself outside City Hall. Bruder’s piece is both an important look at a dysfunctional industry and a master class in profile writing.
But at the press conference about Schifter’s suicide, Mayor Bill de Blasio downplayed Schifter’s parting explanation. “Let’s face it,” he told reporters. “For someone to commit suicide, there’s an underlying mental-health challenge.” De Blasio was hardly in a position to diagnose Schifter. There was, in fact, no evidence that Schifter was mentally ill — just a long written record, published over the course of three years in Black Car News, that underscored how the upheaval in the taxi industry had left him physically impaired, financially desperate, and emotionally devastated. De Blasio himself had done little to rein in Uber, backing down on a cap he had proposed placing on app-driven services. “I heard you were going to end the cruelty to the Central Park horses,” Schifter had addressed de Blasio in one of his columns. “How about ending the government’s cruelty to us?”