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Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told a news conference in the city of Redding at the edge of the blaze on Sunday that one more person had died in a residence consumed by fire, bringing the total to six, including two firefighters.

I am wondering if there is a reason why there is no prep used within "told a news conference". I expect it phrases like: told in a news conference, told during a news conference, and etc.

Any thoughts?

  • Tell/Told works like give/gave - it essentially means "give information" - "I gave my girlfriend the directions" - "I told my girlfriend the directions" – LawrenceC Jul 30 '18 at 17:04
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You are right to sense that the sentence is odd. A news conference is an opportunity to tell something, not the recipient of what is told. It is an event (at least in AmE for most of the 20th century).

The author is using news conference as a synonym for a group of reporters and broadcast media, but that is an idiosyncratic usage (again, in AmE), though it appears to have some traction in reporterese.

Usage decisions are enforced by editors in the news media and they are then often copied by other news outlets, so that media usages can appear to cohere more rapidly than usages "in the wild".

The usual preposition is at a news conference:

The Sheriff revealed at a news conference that the fire's death toll had risen.

but in would also be OK there.

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The sheriff told the conference that something happened. 

The verb to tell is ditranstive.  It licenses an indirect object as well as a direct object.  In this case, the indirect object is represented by a metonymy.  The phrase "a news conference" should be read to mean "the attendants of a news conference" in this context. 

As an indirect object, the phrase in question doesn't warrant a preposition.  A preposition like "to" could have been used, representing the recipient with an adjunct rather than an object.  Monotranitive verbs like "announced" and "revealed" would require such a preposition to express this relationship. 

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'Told' is a transitive verb and must be followed by a direct object. As a consequence it cannot be followed by a preposition. If you want to use a preposition change 'told' to 'said', e.g.:

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said in a news conference

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said during a news conference

  • The verb "tell" usually takes a person as its object. Here it takes a conference. That's why I was confused. – dan Jul 30 '18 at 5:47

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