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Glamann Prize winner: Merrill Perlman

Glamann Prize winner: Merrill Perlman

Perlman wins Glamann Prize

Posted May 1, 2009

The American Copy Editors Society awarded its second annual Glamann Award to Merrill Perlman, a distinguished journalist, treasured member and frequent contributor to the society. Perlman is well-known at the annual ACES conferences for “If I Knew Only,” her wildly popular grammar session, which has been a hallmark of every conference since the first.

SPEECHES

Introduction by William Connolly, New York Times (ret.)

Merrill Perlman, Perlman Consulting

The Glamann Award is named after Hank Glamann, an ACES co-founder and former longtime board member who has raised thousands of dollars for the society and has had a hand in launching many of its programs and initiatives. The award recognizes an individual who has contributed much to ACES and copy editing.

For 25 years – from 1983 until 2008 – Perlman was a treasure to colleagues, supervisors and subordinates at The New York Times. Indeed she has been a treasure to them even in the months since her departure.

She joined The New York Times in 1983 as a business-section copy editor and later served as chief of the Metro copy desk, an assistant Metro editor, an editor on the Week in Review, manager of copy-desk recruiting, managing editor of the New York Times News Service and, ultimately, for five years, as director of copy desks. In that capacity, she oversaw the hiring and training of about 150 copy editors.

In 1999, she also worked with Allan M. Siegal and William G. Connolly to polish the latest version of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.

Since Perlman left The Times, she’s been working as a journalism consultant and freelance editor while writing the “Language Corner” column for The Columbia Journalism Review and teaching at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

At Perlman’s farewell party in June 2008, John Geddes, a managing editor of The Times, said this: “… few among us can lay claim as solidly as Merrill Perlman can to being an unremitting force for making us all – both personally and institutionally – the best we can be.”

He added: “Merrill cares.”

Here is William Connolly’s introduction of Perlman:

Merrill Perlman is a treasure.

For 25 years—from 1983 until 2008—she was a treasure to colleagues, supervisors and, by all means, to subordinates at The New York Times. Indeed she has been a treasure to them even in the months since her departure.

Earlier, she was no doubt treasured at the University of Missouri, The Carbondale Illinoisan and The Des Moines Register.

And almost since ACES’ inception, its members have treasured Merrill. Just ask anyone who’s attended presentations of “If I Knew Only,” her wildly popular grammar sessions, which have been a hallmark of every ACES conference since the first.

When she joined The New York Times in 1983 as a business-section copy editor, there were some doubts. John Lee, the courtly Virginian who was business editor then, noted in a memo: “She seems fond of non-adjective phrases like Denver-based Manville and car-dealer Don Massey.”

Well, New York-based Merrill got over that habit and went on to serve as chief of the Metro copy desk, an assistant Metro editor, an editor on the Week in Review, manager of copy-desk recruiting, managing editor of the New York Times News Service and, ultimately, for five years, as director of copy desks. In that capacity, she oversaw the hiring, training and wellbeing of about 150 copy editors.

Along the way, in 1999, she worked with Al Siegal and Bill Connolly — no, let me correct that; Al Siegal and Bill Connolly worked with Merrill — to polish the latest version of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.

The acknowledgements in that widely ignored book understate Merrill’s contributions, describing her as “the editors’ editor,” the person who took on the roles of “burnisher, skeptic and goad.” She was certainly all of those things, but she was more. She was the midwife who saw to the delivery of that monster, three years in the gestation.

She was more than seemed apparent in all her other roles, too. Her brownies, blondies, lemon squares and other confections made the Metro copy desk, when she was its chief, a social center of the news department. At the News Service, the candy jar on her desk prompted a complaint from an editor—not a very productive editor, mind you—who charged that having to pass Merrill’s desk contributed to the editor’s weight problem.

And it wasn’t just brownies and gumdrops. Who spearheaded the annual book sale that raised thousands of dollars for the Neediest Cases Fund, the holiday charity sponsored by The Times? Merrill, of course. Who whipped up interest for any walk or run to support research on the malady du jour? You know it was Merrill.

Merrill left The Times in June 2008, but they miss her still. “Her advocacy role was the most impressive,” said a former subordinate and colleague. “She was a voice at the table, speaking for copy editors. She cared about copy editors, and she was our leader. Every day, some question comes up and I think, ‘I’d ask Merrill about that.’”

Since she left The Times, she’s been working as a journalism consultant and freelance editor while writing the “Language Corner” column for The Columbia Journalism Review and teaching at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

And, yes, she returned to the paper this year to help run the book sale. That’s Merrill.

Meanwhile, she’s no doubt still haunting eBay in search of newspaper memorabilia and floaty pens. There’s a floaty pen that depicts the old New York Times building. When it’s tipped one way, three familiar colleagues float into the building. When it’s tipped the other way, a newspaper floats out. Only Merrill would think of that. Only Merrill would get it made.

At Merrill’s farewell party last June, John Geddes, a managing editor of The Times, said this: “…few among us can lay claim as solidly as Merrill Perlman can to being an unremitting force for making us all—both personally and institutionally—the best we can be.” He added: “Merrill cares.”

Merrill does indeed care—she cares about language and accuracy and everything else that surrounds copy editing. She cares about copy editors.

In recognition of that caring, I’m happy to say that the ACES board has voted unanimously to give Merrill Perlman its second annual Glamann Award for distinguished service to our craft.

Last updated July 12, 2010

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Daniel Hunt, an ACES national board member and webmaster of copydesk.org, is A1/Sports Presentation Editor at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del. He can be reached at (302) 588-1000 or at dan@copydesk.org.
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