Alex Cruden was named the sixth recipient of the American Copy Editors Society’s Glamann Award at the Society’s national conference March 21 in Las Vegas.
The Glamann Award is named for Hank Glamann, ACES co-founder and a former national board member. The award recognizes people and organizations that have contributed to the Society and the craft of copy editing. Each year’s recipient is chosen by the Board of Directors of ACES.
Cruden retired from the Detroit Free Press in 2008 as its chief editor of the copy desks, ending a 35-year editing career with the paper that he started shortly after he graduated from Hamilton College in 1968.
Cruden has led countless seminars at ACES conferences and workshops and elsewhere. He most notably moderated a session at several ACES conferences called “Inside Readers’ Heads,” where he invited average readers to comment on headlines seen in newspapers. Welcoming readers’ candid views by emphasizing that what they say is always right, he provided news copy editors with valuable insights on how readers really respond to headlines, often contrary to the many rules copy editors had been taught for decades.
Former Free Press colleagues praised Cruden as they recalled their years working with him.
“The way he conveyed his lessons wasn’t just that it was important to his rules or even the newspaper’s rules, but that it was the reader who was of the utmost importance,” wrote Free Press copy editor Janet Graham. “He taught me that, at its heart, the news business is about attracting readers and keeping them satisfied. Attract them with a clever headline but keep them by not allowing things that don’t make sense in print (or on the web).”
Wrote Free Press Managing Editor Julie Topping: “When I had some questions on a story he had edited, I was warned to be careful. But Alex turned out to be the most thoughtful, helpful content editor I had worked with since my arrival at the Free Press as a youngster.”
And wrote longtime colleague Javan Kienzle: “His concern for grammatical correctness has been equaled by his concern for his fellow copy editors. For Alex was also an educator, and in correcting others, he knew that encouragement can be one of the best teachers.”
Cruden, still living in Detroit, is now vice president of ACES’ Education Fund and a founding member of ACES, which was formed in 1997. He has been on the Education Fund board since its inception in 2005, and most recently he has overseen the Fund’s scholarship program.
The American Copy Editors Society shares Kienzle’s sentiment: “I can think of no one worthier than Alex Cruden to receive this prestigious award. The award itself acquires even more honor and luster in being presented to Alex.”
Below is the full text of the poem Alex Cruden wrote in 2008 as part of as session he gave during ACES’ national conference and that appeared in a 2008 ACES newsletter:
“The Reader’s Friend”
I run a finishing school
for stories. The ordinary ones
come out true and clear and lean,
all according to style, because each matters to someone.
I ask each: What do you mean?
Did you confuse or lose
some of your meaning?
You can’t go out like that, without
your context. I question everything,
but first try to answer it myself.
What are you really about?
The better stories can be great.
I protect and polish them –
not only true, clear and lean –
matching our style with their voice,
giving foundation to what makes them
striking, singular, keen.
The stories troop in,
many at the last minute.
I listen hard for what each wants to say.
What would someone not like me want to know?
What would someone find missing, unfair, halfway?
Something makes each special, the ordinary and the great.
For each I craft a headline –
a cry, a laugh, a contrast,
a sweaty gasp, a stabbing truth, a clarity, a fine line.
The stories must depart by deadline.
So I work with their creators in their own ways,
unfair as that might seem
when they are late – and repeat mistakes of previous days.
With editing and headline I make an ohmigod story
from Blithefully Lame-o’s feed
or from Ms. Wonderful’s.
I learn something each day,
to have all my stories succeed.
I am all the readers.
I am nothing ￼without them.
I’m a copy editor.