Sometimes the most enterprising journalism can be found in small-town America, little shitholes like Montezuma, Iowa (pop. 1,462, and nearly everyone of them white). Occupying a dismal southeastern chunk of the Hawkeye State, the place has absolutely no redeeming qualities and nothing at all to recommend it -- other than its fearless newspaper, The Montezuma Record.
Last week, the Record distinguished itself yet again with a barn-burner of a story on employees at the University of Iowa who make at least $100,000. You'll never guess what they found out.
Here's what we like to call in the trade, the nut graph:
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.
Got to wonder how many man-hours it took to come up with those jaw-dropping numbers.
Later in the ground-breaking report, the paper sagaciously observed, "Hyphenated, unspellable and oriental names may get you the big bucks."
The story was picked up by Romenesko, who called the Record for comment. Dunham said that he was unaware of the controversy because he doesn't use the Internet. (The paper has no online presence.)
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.
According to the Iowa Newspaper Association, the Record has a circulation of 884 and readership of 1,768 -- some of them, presumably, named Ahmed. The paper's Facebook page refers to it as "arguably one of the rarest newspapers in Iowa."
Who can argue with that?
We'll keep you posted if we hear of any job openings.