From an article I read recently — “The antique classic is reportedly one of only two in existence today.” I metaphorically squirmed. I chafed.
f am a writer. I carry a dictionary. I carry logic in a side pocket of my brain.
The statement that made me wish I had powdered more between my left and right was a short way of saying, “There may be more of these old cars out in the world somewhere: in a barn in Idaho; the upper floor of a downtown Stuttgart building abandoned in 1945, a freighter that went to Davey Jones’ (not the Monkee; the sailor) 347 miles east of Nova Scotia, the loser in a combat with an uncharted iceberg; it is hard to know for certain, but it is REPORTEDLY one of only acknowledged in resources available to the author of this photo caption by which to suggest the sum total in the universe as we understand it today.
Here’s a hot flash for writers: It is almost always hard to know for certain.
”A witness reportedly said there was a blue convertible across the street when the bank was robbed.” What a LOAD. There is no “reportedly” involved! The witness said it. Maybe the “reportedly” goes with the blue car. More nonsense. The witness said it was a BLUE CAR. What else could it be? What if the sun partially blinded the witness who in different light would have recognized the color as “turquoise?” That possibility is not a factor in what should have been the simpler sentence: “The witness said there was a blue convertible across the street from the bank when the bank was robbed.”
It is acceptable journalism to report what we know without suggesting doubt where, by the standards of our day, no doubt should be reasonably expected.
“The sun will rep0rtedly come up tomorrow, metaphorically speaking.” We all know the sun is not moving in the context of our cozy little solar system. We all know our eastern horizon will be moving down, relative to the stationary sun. But we don’t think twice when we say “The sun will come up tomorrow.” This is acceptable in the context of American communication.
Next week, I may read about the discovery of a 1912 Stutz Bearcat discovered in a barn near Mahomet, Illinois, and I might tell you about it by saying “One of only three Stutz Bearcats, the one discovered yesterday in a barn near Mahomet, Illinois will be raffled over the Christmas holidays by the Jones family who recently purchased the farm. “ I say what I know.
Many years ago, the most brilliant “scientists” of a popular religious faith knew that the sun and all the stars in the heavens revolve around planet earth and especially those who love Jesus. Times changed: Copernicus, Galileo, Carl Sagan . . . . and the facts changed, though it wasn’t easy.
Journalists are okay when we say what we know. There should be no warning labels on newspaper. ATTENTION: The information shared in these pages should be considered FACTUAL only to the extent of our reporters’ ability to determine its factuality, and all information must be considered subject to change without public notice.”
I suggest we banish “reportedly” from our lexicon. What do you say?
Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.