First, biggest, only: Cut it out
Why do writers insist on doing this? Well, it makes copy sound sexier. It makes reporters sound more "authoritative." It's a factola that the other guy doesn't have. Unless it turns out to be either (a) wrong or (b) so baffling as to leave the readers scratching their heads.
McClatchy writers (specifically, the ones representing the former K-R empire) have long been especially prone to these failings, and again today, they're setting the pace:
AMMAN, Jordan -- As Barack Obama heads into the world's most complicated region in a bid to establish his foreign-policy credentials as a presidential hopeful, Israelis and Palestinians are voicing a mixture of hope, skepticism and curiosity.
Most complicated, eh? And how exactly do we propose to measure that variable and test your proposition? I could buy "highest ratio of words to clues in popular news writing," but otherwise -- wow, suppose you tell people he's headed for the Fractious Near East and leave it at that, eh?
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — - The judge in the first American war crimes trial since World War II barred evidence on Monday that interrogators obtained from Osama bin Laden's driver after his capture in Afghanistan.
No. It isn't. Go look it up. This is the first trial of a Guantanamo "detainee" in the "war on terror." It might be the first time the American military has run a war-crimes trial of someone from another country since World War II. But it isn't the first American war-crimes trial since then.
There's always a first, a biggest, and an only. But it's so rarely the one identified by the reporter that you might as well just challenge them all.