Merrill Perlman

It’s a fabulous time for journalism because there’s all these different ways of doing storytelling now.

— Merrill Perlman

Merrill Perlman

Merrill Perlman’s humor and energy can light up a room, making her a popular member of the JAWS organization. Her 25 years at The New York Times and her work on behalf of JAWS contribute to the legacy of this friendly and detailed copy editor.

Merrill grew up in a Chicago suburb and knew she wanted to have a career with words. Her love of journalism kindled in the early 1970s while working at the University of Missouri’s student newspaper during the era of Vietnam, Watergate and protests.

Despite a summer internship she refers to as “the worst experience of my life” (you don’t want to miss the details in her oral history!), Merrill was hooked on journalism and returned to her home state after college to work as a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan. It was there she discovered that her true love was copy editing.

“I was much more comfortable making somebody else look good than I was trying to make myself look good,” Merrill said. “It felt so much better to me, and I really felt much more at home there.”

In 1978, Merrill moved to The Des Moines Register, where she worked until The New York Times came calling for a copy editor. In 1983, she moved to New York and worked in a variety of roles for the newspaper ‒ including director of copy desks ‒ until taking a buyout in 2008.

She now runs a consulting business that includes doing freelance copy editing and providing writing and editing training. She is also an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

Although a relatively new member of JAWS, Merrill has made a big impression since joining in 2006. By her second year, she was serving on the board and soon after was recruited to co-chair the program for the 25th anniversary camp in 2009.

This oral history interview took place in between sessions at the JAWS Vermont camp in fall 2013.

( This interview was conducted by Teri Finneman )