An SI copyreader is both a watchdog guarding against lapses in grammar, style and clarity, and a shepherd who guides each story in his keeping from raw to final form. Few people are as good at this demanding craft as Ed Clarke, who became our deputy copy chief last June and who, with extraordinary composure, takes the deadline pressures of the job in stride. Says Copy Chief Betty DeMeester, "Not many people could do this with the gentle touch that Ed has."
And not many folks could go word-to-word with Clarke in a spell-off. DeMeester has a deadly spelling test on which over the last 20 years she has given 85s to top-notch copyreaders and 77 to a managing editor or two, but only one 100—to Clarke. That was in 1976, and she hired him forthwith.
When it comes to deciphering editors' pencil marks, Clarke has special qualifications. In 1945, when he left his hometown of Newport, R.I. to join the Army Air Corps, he scored well on a classification test and found himself lending a hand to two overworked cryptographers at Kimpo Army Air Base in Korea. No one complained that he hadn't had the customary 16-week training course, but after several months someone did notice that he lacked Top Secret clearance. He was reassigned, but that experience led to another job 15 years later, when Clarke was looking for a change of pace and RCA was looking for cryptographers to handle coded messages going to and from a ballistic-missile early-warning radar site in Thule, Greenland.
A lifelong sports enthusiast blessed with a prodigious memory, Clarke had gotten to sleep at night in his grade school days by calling up the names of major league baseball players, all 400 of which he knew. He earned a B.A. in literature and social sciences from Yale and won the award for the best short story by a senior. He first worked in Hollywood, writing scripts for radio commentator Phillip Norman and copy for Tom Harmon's weekly TV show of college football highlights, plus editing newspaper columns for an astrologer, who spotted him immediately as a Sagittarian. "I would have said he was a Capricorn," says Copyreader Sylvia Staub, our own resident astrologer, "but that's because Saturn rising is a restraining factor, camouflaging his Sagittarian flair. He's one of the most decent persons I've ever known. The prominent Saturn gives him great patience and unusual organizing ability."
Clarke traded the "easy life" on the Coast for that of a TelePrompTer script processor for live TV in New York, working on a variety of soaps and on Huntley-Brinkley newscasts. He also wrote "dozens of first chapters" for a novel. Then he headed for Greenland. It was after his Thule days that he left for Europe to write an ending or two. As the only planes from Greenland landed in Copenhagen, he started there.
The novel was never completed, but Clarke spent most of five years in Denmark and in 1967 met his wife-to-be, Inga, in the bookstore where they both worked. The next year he returned to New York and worked as a copy typist and proofreader for LIFE and a copy-reader for TIME-LIFE BOOKS before joining SI, where, all agree, we are lucky to have a Sagittarian like him. Especially since he can spell it.
CRYPTOGRAPHER CLARKE DECODES EDITS