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Newspaper editor refuses to apologize for racist comments, says he doesn't use the internet

We're going to be charitable and assume the University of Iowa doesn't actually base compensation levels on race or hyphens.
We're going to be charitable and assume the University of Iowa doesn't actually base compensation levels on race or hyphens.
Screengrab from Thursday's edition of The Record

Yesterday, the Record of Montezuma, Iowa, published a report disclosing the salaries of University of Iowa employees. In and of itself, that sounds like a worthy project, but Editor-in-chief Chuck Dunham is in hot water over commentary he added to the story.

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Dunham wrote: "[T]he 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... Hyphenated, unspellable and oriental names may get you the big bucks."

Those passages prompted Matt Denner to begin a petition drive on Organize demanding that Dunham "apologize for your paper's racist comments."

"All people should have their work judged in a manner independent of their race, and shouldn't have their salaries questioned simply because their names or culture are unfamiliar," Denner wrote. "Dunham owes an apology to not only people of color at the University of Iowa, but to the people of Montezuma and all of Iowa whose tolerant reputation he has besmirched."

But reached for comment by journalism blogger Jim Romenesko, Dunham said he doesn't think he has anything to apologize for. And in a surprising twist, he also said he never uses the internet. (The Record has a Facebook page but doesn't appear to have a website.)

From Romenesko:

Dunham returned my call on Friday morning. He said he was unaware of the controversy because he doesn't go online. ("I only deal with what's on paper.") The editor said he's received only one call about the salaries list and that was from a state legislator "who was very pleased to see the four pages of names."

Dunham said his comment about university employees with "hyphenated, unspellable and oriental names" getting large salaries "is a clue to what's to be found there" in the list. He didn't see a problem with it.

I started to tell him about the online petition demanding that he apologize, but he interrupted and said, "If they want to write me a letter, that's fine; I only deal with what's on paper. Thank you for calling." He then hung up.

At best, Dunham is guilty of muddling correlation and causation. Then again, maybe we shouldn't expect logical coherence from a newspaper editor in rural Iowa who still uses words like "oriental" in 2013 but doesn't use the internet.


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