Today's editing lesson: Always do the arithmetic. Always. Even if you have to work the numbers out yourself. Even if they're in a column. Even if it's a holiday.Roderick Davison Scattergood of Cornelius died Dec. 27, 2007. ... He was 86 and had joined the Navy in 1930, just out of high school.
This next one might be worth exploring too, but ...
She learned that his mom sent him 2,000 cigarettes a month during some of his POW years and that he used them like money.Friends and neighbors, that's a lot of smokes -- more than three packs a day, which is hard to square with the image of privation that POW camps conjure up for those of us who know them from movie and TV representations. But with a bit of digging (say, R.A. Radford's "The economic organisation of a P.O.W. camp" (Economica, November 1945, pp. 189-201)), you have to wonder if this fellow wasn't just one of the ones whose families' generosity enabled the occasional disruption of the cigarette-based economy by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of cigarettes "in the space of a fortnight."
It's nice when editors have time to look stuff up on their own. It'd be even nicer if journalism had the luxury of tracking folks like this down for occasions other than their deaths. At the least, though, let's spare ourselves the correction and do the math before the story runs, rather than after.