Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Rubashkin starts and defends ‘grassroots’ blog
A pro-Agriprocessors blog launched “by people who live and work in Postville” has been outed by Nigel Duara of the Associated Press as being at least partly run by Getzel Rubashkin, a member of the family who owns the kosher meatpacking plant. Rubashkin has accused Duara of cherry picking information from their conversation, a move he said has “further tarnished the journalistic profession.”
The blog Postville Voices began shortly after the May 12 immigration raid at Agriprocessors. Originally, the site was named after the meatpacking plant, but switched its name June 1, citing a request by Agriprocessors management. In the past it has taken journalists to task on what the blog referred to as faulty reporting. On June 3 an Iowa Independent report on allegations of sexual harrassment at the plant was questioned by the blog writers.
Again, allegations reported as fact. Semantics aside, if you read that report you will find that although claims have been made of propositioning by individual supervisors, none of the women claim to have filed a complaint with the company, making one wonder how the company was to have prevented the harassment. But this is not journalism, it is media entertainment, so let’s not be too picky.
The site also hosted a series of videos from plant employees speaking about their postive work experiences. Rubashkin has admitted to shooting the videos inside the plant, but says they were forwarded after editing to the workers and the workers alone decided if they were fair characterizations of their opinions before submitting them to the blog.
Duara, who characterized the effort as astroturfing, reported that Rubashkin and a group of friends — friends that have since been named on the blog — began the site about two weeks after the immigration raid. Within six weeks postings on the blog had dwindled. There was only one posting for the entire month of July and none during the month of August.
“This blog has nothing to do with Agriprocessors, and any attempt to link it to Agriprocessors in order to discredit and smear them is ridiculous,” Rubashkin wrote in a response to the Duara report. “It is true that I am the son of Sholom Rubashkin, but I am also an independent individual and my choices are my own.”
Rubashkin said that he was urged by company officials to not be involved with the site, but did so anyway. He further presses that “no deception was perpetrated by the editors.” The reason his name was not made public in relation to the blog, Rubashkin said, was because he feared further “antagonizing the plant management” and was not an attempt to “fool anyone.”
A few weeks after Postville Voices went dark, a new blog dubbed Agri Facts began. Rubashkin denies any involvement in creating this new effort but says that he will “be assisting them in any way I that I can.” He added that if “[Duara] or anyone else has a problem with people defending themselves or others against misinformation and smear campaigns, they will just have to live with it.”
While the new blog has refrained from naming journalists or media outlets to criticize coverage, it does have two posts that correlate directly to reports on housing and rental rates in Postville. Both posts appeared on the blog shortly after two reports on Iowa Independent and various other media reports on the same topic. Getzel Rubashkin, concerned that Iowa Independent misrepresented him as a spokesman for the company and that the housing situation in Postville was not being factually represented, contacted Iowa Independent to discuss the reports.
The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, which has long yearned to organize workers at the Postville meatpacking plant, hosts its own site, Eye on Agriprocessors. The relationship between the web site and the union is fully disclosed in the page header.