After waiting most of the day to work out details of how I would receive intravenous antibiotics at home, I finally left the hospital about 7:15, ending an eight-day stay to treat an infection that arose because chemotherapy had damaged my immune system. It was great to get home.
As I started opening packages that arrived in my absence, Mimi said I needed to open my laptop. We were going to Skype with our granddaughters before they went to bed. Sounded like a nice welcome-home. I had no idea.
The Skype callers were not my granddaughters, but Teresa Schmedding, president of the American Copy Editors Society, and the 500 copy editors gathered for the ACES conference in Pittsburgh. Teresa and Mimi had conspired to Skype me into the conference, so ACES could give me the Glamann Award. Mimi had the plaque and Teresa said some kind words about my contributions to journalism.
I blog about the big things that happen to me, but how do you blog about an award without just boasting? Here’s what I decided to do: I’m going to blog about Hank Glamann, after whom the award is named. And at the end, I’ll do proper thank-yous, because I kind of stammered through a spontaneous acceptance speech Friday night.
Who is Hank Glamann?
Someone asked me who Hank Glamann was, and, beyond recalling him as one of the founders of ACES (along with Pam Robinson), I couldn’t say. So I asked my friend Google as well as some friends in ACES and some friends from Glamann’s last two newsrooms, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Houston Chronicle.
“It was a pleasure to work with such a craftsman as Hank,” said Stuart Warner, now at the Arizona Republic, but a Glamann colleague in Cleveland.
Nebraska journalism professor Sue Burzynski Bullard, an ACES board member who used to be training editor and later managing editor of the Detroit News said:
Here is something you and Hank have in common. Back in the day, he did a lot of newsroom training. I brought him to The News to do some for our copy desks. So you were/are both committed to sharing knowledge about editing. Big believers of training, particularly for the invisible editors who toil on copy desks. And both of you know how to produce great handouts.
I do think I remember coming across some Hank Glamann copy-editing handouts. They were better than my handouts, which probably reflected that I had spent only two years on the desk, and that it had been years since I worked there.
Another similarity I share with Glamann is our view of copy editing. In a 1997 profile for a publication of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, he said:
If we lose the quality control that comes from the copy desk, I fear that we risk endangering newspapers’ role in society.
In my remarks after getting the award Friday night, I praised copy editors for providing “quality control” for the newsrooms and other organizations they serve.
That 1997 profile, written by Brian Cooper, executive editor of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald (a friend from my Iowa days), showed a different challenge from today’s consolidation and elimination of copy desks. Pagination, which had closed newspaper composing rooms, had shifted production duties to the copy desk, concerning Glamann:
‘The problem is that publishers believe that technology is going to do the job previously performed by printers. But you’ve taken a large chunk of the job from the back shop and put it on the copy desk,’ he said. ‘You have to divide time between being a journalist and production.
‘Production is tending to take an increasingly large share of copy editors’ time. The journalism component is what is suffering. I don’t want to demean the work that’s done by technical personnel, but that is not what I have chosen to do.’
The profile also explained Glamann’s headline-writing method:
I love to write headlines. … I take a mental step back. I try to ask, ‘What does this story mean?’ Too often, headline writers will start going through the lead and plucking words. That’s OK. However, it doesn’t always allow you to perform the most important task, which is to persuade the reader to read into the story.
I like to think of the headline as the doorway through which the reader enters the story — to beckon the reader to come through.
For more Glamann headline-writing advice, check Gerri Berendzen’s account of his “Hank on Heads” session at the 2009 ACES conference.
A 2005 ACES profile tells of Glamann’s career in various editing positions at the Galveston Daily News, Houston Post and Dallas Morning News. He was executive news editor of the Houston Chronicle and then assistant managing editor of the Plain Dealer.
He won the 1998 Hearst Eagle Award for outstanding contributions to the Chronicle’s parent company, and he was a two-time (1990 and ’94) winner of the John Murphy Award for Excellence in Copy Editing, given by the Texas Daily Newspaper Association.
I found an account Glamann wrote of the third ACES conference in Dallas in 1999. It presents a stark contrast to the situation today for copy editors at newspapers:
One of ACES’ greatest concerns has been the resistance on the part of some managers to sending their copy editors to the society’s conferences for fear that they will be recruited away. This has been particularly problematic in terms of attracting editors from smaller publications.
Of course, one need not travel to a conference to find a new job as a copy editor. Such positions are abundant at every level of the business. Thus, this is a category in which it is especially important for employers to pursue the retention of quality employees. One of the best ways to do that is to demonstrate your commitment to these employees by investing in professional training that helps them to improve their skills.
Glamann not only wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions, he considered it his job. A 1997 AJR piece on ACES opened with this anecdote:
Hank Glamann remembers well the reaction to his questions.
Glamann, then copy desk chief at a major metropolitan daily, was working his regular Saturday night shift. A big investigative package was slated to run on page one the next day, and in fact had already been published in some early editions. The story – thoroughly lawyered and otherwise vetted by various layers of editors, having passed a review by ‘God and all of his minions,’ Glamann quips – was shipped to his desk.
He found what he estimates were maybe 100 changes he thought needed to be made. ‘These were not changes of the basic copy editing variety. We’re not just talking about spelling. There was some rewrite, some polishing off of rough edges. I suggested a little bit of reorganization.’
Red-markered copy in hand, he went back to the editor on duty, who promptly forbade him from changing a word unless it was spelled wrong. ‘This has been approved by the lawyers, and so we’re not going to make any of these changes,’ Glamann recalls being told.
He didn’t back down. ‘According to the chart of the personnel of this newspaper I am the best copy editor here,’ responded Glamann, angry that he was being told hands-off on a piece that had only had a cursory read by a copy editor handling the early editions. ‘What you have just told me is.., “We are going to publish this piece, and you can’t do your job.”‘
Eventually, the reporter and the Sunday editor – the one who’d originally rebuffed him – sat down with Glamann and agreed to perhaps 90 of his 100 suggested changes. The result? Says Glamann, ‘We published a lot better story.’
Glamann advocated another practice I have favored (but didn’t do enough to make it happen): in-house exchanges of journalists. From the AJR piece:
‘My experience has been that empathy is a wonderful thing,’ Glamann says. ‘To produce that, the best thing people can do is walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. To have a night assistant city editor and a copy editor trade places even for a week, the copy editor has to deal with reporters and copy directly, and the night assistant city editor has to write headlines on deadline. They come out of it with new respect for what coworkers do.’
In addition to co-founding ACES, Glamann was a leader in copy editors’ fun when they got together. The 2006 ACES blog about the conference tells of “an Oscar-worthy performance of ‘It’s Hard Out There on the Rim’ by Beryl Adcock, Scott Toole, and the incomparable Hank Glamann.”
His 2005 keynote speech at the ACES conference was truly inspiring. I recommend reading it. He spoke of deciding with Robinson to launch ACES during a conversation they had in 1996 at a conference at the University of Kansas. They decided to stop lamenting the lack of respect for copy editors and form a group to train and advocate for copy editors. In the same way, he said, editors must take charge of their own careers:
Who is in charge of your professional life? Is it you? Or are you swept along by external forces beyond your control?
Many people regard life not so much as something that they live but as something that happens to them. If you feel that way, and you want to make a difference, you’re going to have to change that attitude.
I am proud to receive the Glamann Award, not just because it associates me with an outstanding editor I wish I had met, but because it connects me with a group of earlier winners I admire: the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, Merrill Perlman (a former colleague on the Des Moines Register copy desk many years ago), the Missouri School of Journalism, Bill Cloud, Bill Connolly, Craig Silverman and Alex Cruden.
I don’t know what Glamann’s up to these days. I found stories as recently as 2012 referring to him as a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, though I couldn’t find him in a director of the department’s current public information officers.
I got what I hope is a current email address for him and sent him an email. I’ll update if we connect.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy adds this:
Update: John Kroll, a former colleague of Glamann at the Plain Dealer, sent this observation by email:
He was a meteor at The Plain Dealer, come and gone too soon, but in his time he made a huge impact. I was a deputy biz editor at the time, and had been complaining ever since I’d gotten there about the low quality of the copy editing in general. Hank raised the level of the desks quickly and was a loud and effective voice for good editing overall.
My thanks to ACES and those who’ve helped me
Caught by surprise, I babbled some words of thanks over Skype Friday evening to people who have helped me in my career. I made a joke that I was using literally correctly when I told the copy editors I had literally gotten home from the hospital minutes earlier. Other than that, and the quality-control remark I mentioned above, I don’t recall specifically what I said in receiving the award. (I also said I was “gobsmacked,” the kind of silly, but accurate, word copy editors like.)
— Steve Buttry (@stevebuttry) March 28, 2015
But mostly I don’t remember exactly what I said, and I’m sure I forgot many who should share in any award given to me.
In presenting the award, Teresa Schmedding said some kind words about how I helped her learn to train other journalists, so I started out with thanks to her. Here are my comments accepting the Glamann Award, a mix of what I think I actually said and what I would have said if I’d had a chance to prepare remarks:
I don’t know of a journalism organization that has a stronger leader than Teresa Schmedding, and I should start my thank-yous with you and the ACES board, people I admire and respect, for this profound honor.
ACES is one of my favorite organizations in the news business. I’m proud that I’ve spoken at your conferences in Minneapolis and St. Louis and Las Vegas, and I had a lot of fun with you folks at each of those conferences. It pained me to have to turn down an invitation to join you in Pittsburgh because of my chemotherapy treatment. If not for the chemo, I’d have been delighted to be with you in Pittsburgh, getting my ass kicked in the spelling bee by Lisa McLendon.
(I know I didn’t think of the spelling bee during my remarks Friday, but that’s one of the cool things about ACES. What other journalism organization has a spelling bee as a fund-raiser?)
I never learned more faster about journalism than in the two years I spent on the Des Moines Register’s copy desk. In more than 35 years since I left the copy desk, my respect and fondness for copy editors has remained strong, especially today, when many in our business are questioning your value.
I must thank my colleagues at the Register copy desk who taught me so much: the great Jimmy Larson, George Hanrahan, Randy Witke, Merrill Perlman, Pat O’Conner, Dick Norman, Marc Rosenbaum, Terry Manley, Cindy Howell and others I’m sure I’m forgetting.
(I forgot to thank my training colleagues, and Teresa specifically cited my work in training in giving me the award, so I’ll correct that oversight here.)
Whatever reputation I have in newsroom training owes in great part to my learning from, work with and collaboration with a network of newsroom trainers that thrived many years ago. I learned more than I can say from these colleagues at annual conferences at the Freedom Forum and Poynter Institute, collaborating on the great but now-defunct website No Train, No Gain and countless other events where I provided training and learned from other trainers.
Again, I will certainly forget important names, but my thanks to that group starts with an ACES board member, Sue Burzynski, and the No Train, No Gain webmaster, Dolf Els. And I should thank Joe Hight, who first encouraged me to provide training for copy editors, even though my experience in the craft was distant and brief. Other trainers who provided example, instruction and encouragement were Evelyn Hsu, Howard Finberg, Roy Peter Clark, Aly Colón, Kelly McBride, Keith Woods, Chip Scanlan, Joe Grimm, Debbie Wolfe, Deborah Gump, Michael Roberts, Liz Allen, Tamara O’Shaughnessy, Deborah Potter, Peter Perl, Bobbi Bowman, Mike Schwartz, Jack Hart, Tom French, Dick Weiss, Michael Quintanilla, Craig Silverman, Curt Hazlett, Tom Linthicum, Gail Bulfin, Rene Kaluza and the wonderful Dori Maynard, whom we lost just last month. (And I know I’m overlooking others I should have included.)
Special thanks also should go to my American Press Institute training colleagues: Carol Ann Riordan, Drew Davis, Mary Glick, Mary Peskin, Mark Mulholland, Elaine Clisham and Steve Gray. My time at API rivals my time on the Register’s copy desk as the time in my career when I learned the most. I first met Teresa at API, and I should also thank API’s Train the Trainer program and its fabulous leader, Alan Weiss. Teresa and I are both proud graduates of Train the Trainer. I wish someone would revive that outstanding program.
Perhaps I also should thank Gene Weingarten, who sarcastically suggested, right after, or maybe during, last year’s ACES conference, that I change the name of my blog to Mmmm, Smooth Buttry Goodness. I said I’d do it if he could raise over $500 for the ACES scholarship fund, and I think we ended up north of $700. That might have played into this honor, so I thank Gene for making fun of my name.
I need to thank Mimi, who endured a lot of lonely evenings in my time on the copy desk and did a great job raising three sons whose father spent many afternoons, evenings and weekends in the newsroom. She spends more time with me these days, and that may not always be a good thing for her, but she’s still my best editor and deserves huge credit for any career success I’ve had. (I remember I shamelessly plugged Mimi’s journalism-themed novel, Gathering String.)
I also learned a lot about the leadership aspect of editing from many outstanding editors in various newsrooms where I’ve worked, including Dave Witke, Chuck Offenburger, Michael Gartner, Rick Tapscott, Jim Brady, Robyn Tomlin, Paul Leavitt, Chuck Capaldo, Lucia Herndon, Diane Graham, Jim Gannon, Mike Waller, Greg Moore, Bob Moore, Matt DeRienzo, Jim McClure, Nancy March and many more.
Twice I’ve had the honor of leading newsrooms, at the Minot Daily News in North Dakota and the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa. Both places my appreciation grew for the value that copy editors brought to those newsrooms. And I’m proud to say that when we had to cut the Cedar Rapids newsroom on my watch by 14 journalists, I didn’t cut any on the copy desk.
I’ll conclude by speaking as a reporter, with thanks to a copy editor (I did think to tell this story Friday). When I wrote a drought story for the Omaha World-Herald many years ago, a copy editor named Sue Truax messaged me asking politely if I meant that a particular Nebraska city was encouraging water conservation, rather than consumption.
My first thought, of course, was that the damn city desk had been screwing with my story again and must have introduced that error. I confidently looked up my draft of the story and damned if it wasn’t there. I wrote that the city was encouraging water consumption. Talk about a buried lead!
Well, thanks to Sue and you and to all copy editors who keep us from looking stupid and make us better writers. You are quality control in the newsrooms and other organizations where you work. I can’t think of a higher honor than to be recognized by the people whose job is ensuring quality.
Thank you! From the bottom of my heart.