News Reporting, Part 2

NEWS REPORTING, PART 2….OK, one more example of what I was talking about in the previous post. Here’s the lead of a CNN story today:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair Wednesday deflected a call for an independent inquiry into his country’s role in the Iraq war, saying there was “absolutely no doubt” about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

After 200 miscellaneous words that add nothing to the story, we finally get Blair’s full quote:

There can be no doubt at all that those weapons existed, absolutely no doubt because that is said not just by this government or the United States government, it was set out in detail over 12 years by the United Nations and by United Nations inspectors.

In other words, nothing. All he said was that the weapons “existed,” past tense, a fact that nobody denies.

Maybe this was just a really badly written story. Certainly the fact that the lead seems to deliberately mischaracterize what Blair actually said suggests so. But in order to fulfill the conventions of news reporting the full quote was left until the very end and a story that deserved at most a couple of paragraphs (if that) was padded to several hundred words. What’s the point?