Story Behind the ‘Copy Editor’s Lament’ Song

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Christopher Ave, Credit = Tim Barker

Christopher Ave, Credit = Tim Barker

Earlier this week my editor sent me a link to a song that one of Poynter’s faculty members found via Twitter. After hearing the “Copy Editor’s Lament” song, I couldn’t help but want to write about it.

I interviewed Christopher Ave, the man who wrote and recorded it, and wrote the piece shortly thereafter. I felt as though I could relate to the song and to Ave’s reason for writing/recording it, which made the story that much easier to write.

I especially like one of Ave’s quotes: “A lot of us in journalism sort of chuckle at copy editors’ slavish devotion to style, but you know what? They can really save your butt.” So true.

You can read the story here:

Christopher Ave has publicly referred to himself as a human safety net who double-checks facts, corrects punctuation and fixes grammatical errors.

He’s not a copy editor, though.

He’s a journalist and musician who wrote and recorded a first-person song, “Copy Editor’s Lament,” about a copy editor being laid off.

“AP Stylebook is my bible/Helped me stop a suit for libel/But nothing ensures my survival now/And I don’t know what I’ll do/After I’m through/Killing my last adjective,” he sings.

Ave, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s political editor, said the song isn’t a tribute to a particular copy editor, but rather a musical testament to the value of all copy editors — those who have been laid off and those who are still in newsrooms.