Sunday, February 15, 2015

With a load of iron ore ...

Should we start a pool for when or whether we see a correction on this one?

It began in 1879 with the discovery of massive iron deposits that were big enough to merit giving the name Iron Mountain to the town that grew above it, and vast enough to bring more than 28 million pounds of iron to the surface before it closed in 1934 after the Great Depression hit.

Copy editors aren't supposed to be impressed by numbers; they're supposed to be polite but skeptical. Is that a lot? Compared to what? If at this point they're humming along with Gordon Lightfoot, that's a good start, because the next step is figuring out how many pounds in "26,000 tons more* than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty." That's a lot of iron ore, and you don't need a calculator to get 52 million pounds** from it.

That's iron ore, not iron itself, so while you're asking how much ore it takes to produce a pound of iron, you could amuse yourself with a few more questions: how long the Edmund Fitzgerald plied the lakes (17 years), whether it made only one trip a year (no), how much iron ore the US produces these days (52 million tonnes in 2013, according to the Wikipedias), and so on. I'd kind of like to know.

Should we expect reporters to be perfect? No. We should expect them to be busy -- and human. They're entitled, in turn, to expect their employers to keep enough editors on hand to help mitigate those conditions.

* No Michigan newspaper would ever say "26 tons," would it?
** Apparently Gordon meant long tons, or 58.5 million pounds.

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