UPDATE II, Friday, March 15, 1:09 p.m.: Progress Iowa executive director Matt Sinovic told the Progressive that GOP state Rep. Dave Maxwell, who represents Poweshiek County, requested that House members receive a copy of Thursday’s Record, which is how the paper ended up in Des Moines. Maxwell owns a business in Gibson called Maxwell Tiling, which ran an advertisement in the paper. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but we’ll update the story if he does.
UPDATE, Friday, March 15, 9:48 a.m.: Record editor in chief Chuck Dunham didn’t reply to the Progressive’s request for comment, but he did return a call from Jim Romenesko, who picked up our story on his media blog. Dunham told Romenesko this morning that he was unaware of the controversy, which was also picked up by Gawker, because he doesn’t use the internet (no big surprise, considering his paper doesn’t have a website). “I only deal with what’s on paper,” Dunham said. Asked about his paper’s “Hyphenated, unspellable and oriental names” remark, he replied that it “is a clue to what’s to be found there” and saw nothing wrong with it. Asked about Matt Denner’s petition demanding an apology, he replied, “If they want to write me a letter, that’s fine; I only deal with what’s on paper,” and then hung up on Romenesko.
ORIGINAL STORY: Des Moines resident Matt Denner made an interesting discovery this morning flipping through the Montezuma Record, a small weekly newspaper in Poweshiek County. A report listing the employees at the University of Iowa who earn at least $100,000 was introduced by noting, “The relatively high numbers of employees with names from Asia and the Near East is interesting. While there are SMiths [sic] and Jones, there are eleven Ahmeds to only 30 Browns.”
Later in the report, the paper astutely observed, “Hyphenated, unspellable and oriental names may get you the big bucks”:
Denner has launched a petition on Credo Action, the progressive activism arm of the San Francisco-based phone company Credo Mobile, calling for an apology from Chuck Dunham, publisher and editor in chief of the Record. The report, Denner wrote, “included comments that are hard to read as anything but racist and disgusting.”
The mockery of (presumably) foreign names as “unspellable” aside, journalism stylebooks typically advise to refer to people from East Asia as “Asians” rather than “Orientals,” which can be considered offensive.
According to the Iowa Newspaper Association, the Record has a circulation of 884 and readership of 1,768. The paper’s Facebook page refers to it as “[a]rguably one of the rarest newspapers in Iowa.” Montezuma, an hour and a half drive southeast of Ames, is a town of about 1,500 people.
Dunham has not responded to a request for comment. We’ll update the story if he does.