Even after almost two years of daily consumption of US print (well, online) news, in particular, the NY Times, I still cannot get my head around the structure of their articles. I'll elaborate an example below. In summary, I fail to believe that this is accidental, and would like to understand the reasoning (or maybe just the history) behind it.
The article in question is Ahmad Khan Rahami’s Father Told Police in 2014 His Son Was a Terrorist, Officials Say, and I'll try my best to state my question without copying too much of its content here, but some copying cannot be avoided to clearly make my point. (Edit: I am happy I did, because the article has undergone a significant revision since I asked this question. Not for the better, though.)
The headline of the article hints at the main theme of the article: what the father told the police. This is the introductory paragraph:
Two years before Ahmad Khan Rahami went (...), his father told the police that the son was a terrorist, prompting a review by federal agents, (...).
Then follows a bunch of paragraphs which have nothing to do with the headline or that introductory paragraph. When I encounter something like this, I always end up being puzzled. These two are very specifically about a book he wrote and carried, which was unknown to me:
Separately on Tuesday, another official said that (...), he was carrying a notebook (...).
In one section of the book, (...).
This one is more generally about his motivation, yet unrelated to the theme of the article:
After Mr. Rahami was captured on Monday morning, (...), investigators have turned their focus to what might have motivated, inspired or led him (...).
This one is again more specific about assistance:
Officials are also looking at whether he had any assistance (...).
Now this one refers to the paragraphy BEFORE the previous one, the question of motivation (not assistance!):
Of particular interest to the authorities is a series of trips Mr. Rahami made (...).
And now this knocks me off completely. We finally come back to the main theme, using the phrase "the statement" to refer to something introduced five paragraphs before. In passing, we mention a dispute which will become relevant later.
The father made the statement (...) when Mr. Rahami was arrested after a domestic dispute.
The following paragraphs are directly related to the previous one - a rare circumstance:
The information was passed (...). Officers (...) interviewed the father, who then recanted.
An official, when asked about the inquiry, said (...).
But after two paragraphs of the expected, linear structure, it seems like the reporter had again something else on his mind that should be written before forgotten:
It is not clear if officers interviewed Ahmad Rahami.
As a consequence, we have to return the focus to the father again:
On Tuesday morning, (...), the father (...) told reporters, (...)
Asked if he specifically (...)
“No,” Mohammad Rahami said. (...)
And now again, for a final time, we come back to something (the dispute) which was introduced six paragraphs before!
Ahmad Rahami spent over three months in jail on charges related to the domestic dispute (...)
(end of the article)
So my problem with this is that there does not seem to be consistent line of thoughts which guides the article. My expected structure (as I know it) would somewhere along these lines:
- An introductory paragraph (like the one in the article)
- The most important facts, each directly coupled to relevant quotes and in direct succession (as opposed to separated by multiple paragraphs; here: the father's statements and the direct response)
- Other unrelated and background information (here: motivation and travel; the book; assistance; interview; the dispute and its consequences)
I have many more examples like the one above, where the structure is more like this, with fact, quotes and background information interleaves, in an almost chaotic way:
- An introductory paragraph
- Fact 1
- Some unrelated information
- Fact 2
- Some quote on fact 1
- Some other unrelated information
- Fact 3
- Some quote on fact 2
Is this specific to English/US-style news writing? Or is this more specific to online publishing in a way that the reporters, at whatever damage to the article's structure, try to stuff as much information, as diverse as possible, into the opening paragraphs for the benefits of readers who do not even read half-way through the article?