Economist Tyler Cowen thinks the Paris agreement is getting too much attention, given the relatively more important news that China's emissions may have peaked:
How much news has this received, relative to the Paris meetings? Less than a hundredth, I suspect. Typical readers and viewers are far more interested in the deliberate actions of high-status political leaders than they are interested in underlying structural developments, even when the latter are probably of more import. We need dramatic stories with prestigious protagonists, leading the way...This is just one way in which I feel the world I live in is a delusion and shadow play, relative to the truth.
I sympathise, though of course sometimes those 'high status political leaders' really do move historical events (heck, sometimes even low-status people do so), and this may be one of those times. We simply don't know, and we won't for many years.
Most of the time, as the China emissions issue attests, history is a relatively slow moving process. But while history is mostly trends, journalism is about events. In fact, the focus on events is baked into the DNA of the profession. It's no accident that journalists refer to their product as 'stories'. Their job is to find and package stories, not convey information. Yes, there's a lot of overlap between those two categories, but they are not the same thing, and as Tyler Cowen's example shows, sometimes important information is overlooked in favour of reporting a story. I think the trick to consuming journalism is to sift out the story elements and pay attention to the information.
Photo by Flickr user Gustavo M.