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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Politics Willamette Week Story Cited In Yesterday’s Immigration Raid

Posted by Scott Moore on Wed, Jun 13 at 5:25 PM

Our friends over at the Willamette Week, a free alternative weekly newspaper published right here in Portland (you can find their papers in blue boxes on street corners), are once again standing up for the little guys.

And by “little guys,” I mean “federal agents working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” who raided a Portland fruit plant yesterday and arrested 167 undocumented workers—a raid that was based at least in part on a May 2 story by WW writer Beth Slovic. Her piece, “Chop Shop,” detailed the working conditions at the plant, and also mentioned the fact that, whooops!, most of the employees were undocumented.

Slovic’s article was quoted in three and a half pages of ICE’s affidavit (pages 20-24), which was prepared by an ICE agent named Maximillian L. Trimm. (Seriously? Maximillian Trimm? If that isn’t the best porn name ever, I don’t know what is.)

The Dub-Dub has posted an update to Slovic’s feature with the news about the immigration raid—that post has already drawn fire from immigrant rights’ supporters blaming the paper for the raid, as well as a number of right-wing xenophobes praising WW for inadvertently getting the workers deported.

In truth, I believe Slovic set out to tell a story about the awful working conditions the plant workers faced, so it’s got to sting to have her piece used by ICE in an action that will even more thoroughly fuck those workers. Youch!

p.s. I should add that I got my journalistic start by writing feature stories about the plight of immigrant workers (sheepherders and construction workers, documented and undocumented), and I never went “undercover” for any of the stories. I gained the trust of the subjects by assuring them that I wouldn’t write anything that would identify them or otherwise lead to retribution against them. I’m not in the habit of blowing my own horn, but one of those stories won a New California Media award (not a Pulitzer or anything, but still), and as far as I know, nobody ever got deported because of anything I wrote. Just sayin’.

Comments

Sorry Beth. Scott just left the office humming "Live and Let Die."

Ouch.... kind of sucks to be the Willamette Week right now ‎huh? But then again, when doesn’t it suck to be them?‎

yeah i thought that was kind of a snarky way to get the scoop.
i feel sorry for the immigrants, whether they are here legally or not...they're still people with families.
uh, there are illegal americans in mexico, too. so. yeah.

Not to be some wweek lover, but it seems from reading the piece that it was never their intent to get workers deported. Was it? I'm just saying. It seems like pretty much the opposite of what they intended.

And, really, if ICE had been there six months, that was several months before the wweek story.

What does it matter to ya...doop de doop...when you've got a job to do, you've got to do it well...

I call bullshit on referring to the Willy Week as an alternative weekly newspaper. Perhaps in the distant past that would have been an accurate statement, but now it's just the same right-wing spin and truthiness as its daily sibling. The Willy Week today is is about as edgy as Parade Magazine.

Parade Magazine??? Good burn.

Like I said, I'm sure Beth (and WW) had the best of intentions in writing the piece--it's just that when you write a story like that, you've got to be aware of the ramifications for the people you've written about.

I'm certain to be castigated for my falling off the left wing here, but while I empathize with families being traumatized by this raid, I don't see a single bit of sympathy for the poor schmucks whose lives are (have been) turned upside down by the workers who took the recruiters advice and went to the streets of Woodburn to get their SS cards.

From the jump off I thought Beth's article was irresponsible. The WW never wants to focus on the stories of workers actually doing things to change the conditions they work in-where was the story and follow up when workers won the class action lawsuit at Del Monte? Why was Del Monte not more of the focus of her article? The focus was the fact that "she was shocked workers said they were illegal". Her article did nothing to offer solutions or highlight how workers fight poor working conditions. It just urged us to think more about bigger picture issues. Great- a lot of good thinking without action does. Oh and mentioned time and again that workers were undocumented. Thanks for nothing Beth

From the jump off I thought Beth's article was irresponsible. The WW never wants to focus on the stories of workers actually doing things to change the conditions they work in-where was the story and follow up when workers won the class action lawsuit at Del Monte? Why was Del Monte not more of the focus of her article? The focus was the fact that "she was shocked workers said they were illegal". Her article did nothing to offer solutions or highlight how workers fight poor working conditions. It just urged us to think more about bigger picture issues. Great- a lot of good thinking without action does. Oh and mentioned time and again that workers were undocumented. Thanks for nothing Beth

Now I have another reason to never pick up the WW. Originally, it was the consistently ugly cover photos.

Um, right. WW is terrible because they pointed out unsafe worker conditions? God, Scott. Time to hop down from your high horse (we're all very impressed with how you covered immigrant issues).

So what, we ignore big-picture issues because there might, just might be a fallout on the micro level? Don't get me wrong, it's a f--king travesty what happened. But how could WW have covered it differently? Your insinuation that they should have gained the "trust of the subjects by assuring them that [they] wouldn’t write anything that would identify them or otherwise lead to retribution against them" is a specious argument. How would that have changed this situation?

The workers were getting f--ked. WW tried to cover it. The workers got even more f--ked. But in the future, the plant will be a safer place to work. It's a tragic story. In the end, the question remains: could WW have covered it any other way? The answer is no.

maybe they some how could have covered it in a way the the workers wouldn't have gotten "even more f--ked"?

But how, eamegrant?

I'm not saying I love the story (how it was structured left a lot to be desired), but what would they have done differently that -- and this is key -- still showed what was actually happening there?

Ask Del Monte for a guided tour? Sit outside the back door and quiz workers as they left? Slovic had some guts to go in and do some hands on reporting.

Not once could she have thought: "They're screwed already, this piece is going to get 'em REALLY screwed." becasue that's what happened. was she that short sighted or so excited about her "hands on reporting" that she overlooked that outcome?

What could Beth of done differently? From my completely non journalistic background...

She could have kept the name of the place out of the story. "an unnamed factory in N. Portland" would have sufficed. who REALLY cares if it is Del Monte, Pickle and Condom duo factory or a Porn DVD manufacturer?

This is called JOURNALISM. It's not called "sort of allude to a un-named hazardous workplace in Portland." It's not called "we report the news until we start second guessing ourselves to the point where we can't put out a paper."

They wrote a story exposing a workplace where people could die. That's not an exaggeration. Standing in water with submerged power cords kills people.

This isn't an easy, black-and-white issue. It's the old "mother has to decide which child to save from the burning home" ethical dilemma. I'm betting that Slovic and a few others at WW are feeling pretty shitty right now (or at least I hope they do). But I don't think they had much of a choice in how they ran that story.

Rant finished.

This is called JOURNALISM. It's not called "sort of allude to a un-named hazardous workplace in Portland." It's not called "we report the news until we start second guessing ourselves to the point where we can't put out a paper."

They wrote a story exposing a workplace where people could die. That's not an exaggeration. Standing in water with submerged power cords kills people.

This isn't an easy, black-and-white issue. It's the old "mother has to decide which child to save from the burning home" ethical dilemma. I'm betting that Slovic and a few others at WW are feeling pretty shitty right now (or at least I hope they do). But I don't think they had much of a choice in how they ran that story.

Rant finished.

I for one am simply glad that what has happened to the illegal immigrants can be used in the ongoing WWeek-Mercury pissing contest that is BlogTown. I mean, immigration is an interesting topic, but did you hear that the WWeek is stoopid? Also, they are for old people! And they smell bad! That's what's really important here.

Every story (whether covered by "biased" alt.weeklies or "unbiased" mainstream dailies) can be told in an infinite number of ways, by altering what's emphasized, what's left out altogether, what's generalized, what's specified, etc., and it all comes down to what kind of story the journalist is trying to tell.

If WW was trying to write about the terrible conditions at the plant, they could have focused on that aspect, and on the workers' efforts to improve the conditions, and certainly one of their obstacles to that is their status.

But by focusing as much as they did on the fact that the plant hired undocumented workers, WW essentially threw down the gauntlet to ICE; how could the agency NOT have conducted a raid after being handed all that evidence in the feature?

And, sure, I'd even go so far as to say that the plant's hiring practices was a totally legitimate news story--no matter how you look at it, there WAS massive lawbreaking--but if THAT was the story WW set out to tell, it says a lot about the values they hold.

Yes, pity the poor ICE. Their hands were tied. I mean, the WWeek threw down a gauntlet! A GAUNTLET, I tell you!

Oh, and isn't this interesting -- it makes the WWeek look bad. How about that? I see no conflict of interest in your pushing this angle whatsoever.

Let's all go out and remove those unsightly WWeek newspaper boxes that illegally block our public sidewalks! They're annoying, and they force our government's agencies to enforce anti-immigrant policies! Who's with me?

Scott

Good point. I agree. And I think you hit the core of the issue.

It was a story that needed to be told. (Which is the point that I've been arguing). But as you ask, what was that story? Work conditions? Illegal workers?

Covering immigration can a sucker's battle -- you'll always struggle against how polarized the issue is. But it can be done well (Ted Conover 's book Coyotes being one kick ass example). WW, on the other hand, royally f--cked themselves over by pretending that polarization didn't exist, or at least not addressing it in the story.

It's too bad. It was a damn good idea for a story, too.

(This is all going down during the AAN convention, no less. Poor bastards. Ha!)

When I read WW's story some time ago, I wondered what would happen, and immediately had thoughts of little kids at their homes, who don't understand immigration laws at all...they just hear that 'dad' and 'uncle' aren't coming home tonight.
I feel for them.

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