As you digest the avalanche of media coverage of the US presidential election over coming days, keep in mind that there's another leadership transition beginning in Beijing on Thursday. These were Prime Minister Gillard's words last week at the Asian Century White Paper launch:

Think about the media time given over to reporting the challenges of fiscal policy in Portugal or Greece or the US presidential elections. Should less time really be devoted – as it is now – to reporting the economic trends of Indonesia, the debates around freer trade in Japan, the political transition in China?

There are a host of reasons why media coverage of the US campaign is so much more extensive than China's party congress: there's the common language and shared culture; the fact that the US race is an actual contest in which voters get a say; and the contest occurs mostly in plain sight, with the media free to cover it and countless public spectacles arranged to feed its interest.

It's hard to imagine those factors ever being overcome, and its an instructive study of why we should not automatically conflate media attention with historical significance. There's a reason journalists call their finished products 'stories'. What an event like the US presidential race produces is loads and loads of stories. Morality, scandal, principle, compromise, war, peace: all the elements of the human condition on technicolour display. News consumers want to hear stories, and the US presidential race is the best one going.

Photo by Flickr user MarkGregory007.