All the news that’s fit to ignore

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If I were a newspaper editor with my pick of front-page stories, which would I choose to run above the fold?

Would it be the one about Burger King gobbling up Tim Hortons for a cool $12.5 billion? Or would it be the one about humanity possibly facing extinction in a century or so thanks entirely to manmade global warming?

At the Globe and Mail, at any rate, the answer is a no-brainer (as it is, I’d guess, at just about every other daily news organ in the world). Donuts and burgers trump the apocalypse every time.

And so it was, Tuesday, when the Globe ran its insider’s look-see at the deal between Timmy’s and 3G Capital Group, the Brazilian private equity fund that bought Burger King for $4.1 billion in 2010, on Page One.

Meanwhile, casually floating amid the news of less apparent import on Page Nine was an Associated Press story about the final draft report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – a report which makes dire predictions of  “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

You might have reasonably expected a followup in the front section’s middle two-page spread, normally reserved for in-depth analyses of subjects and topics in the news. But, no. There, too, Tim’s had dibs.

“You may have heard that Tim Hortons is becoming part of a newly-formed global company headquartered in Canada,” the advertising copy cheerly chirped. “Among other things, this will help us grow and expand our brand around the world. What remains the same is our focus on top quality, fresh products, value, great service and investment in community. . .That focus on our guests and community will never change.”

Neither, alas, will mankind’s preternatural ability to miss the forest for the trees.

A multi-billion-dollar corporate merger happens every couple of years, or so. But the end of the world as we know it? Come on people, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. One would think it deserves a little more respect than it gets in the mainstream media and popular press.

“The UN report tells us once again what we know with a greater degree of certainty: that climate change is real, it is caused by us, and it is already causing substantial damage to us and our environment,” Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University told the Associated Press. “If there is one take-home point of this report, it is this: We have to act now.”

Or not.

Consider what John Christy has to say. He, too, is a climate scientist, though unlike most of his peers, he’s no catastrophe junkie. The University of Alabama academic told the AP, “Humans are clever. We shall adapt to whatever happens.”

Not surprisingly, Dr. Christy is not altogether beloved by his peers. In a recent New York Times piece, Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology equated his colleague’s sanguinity about the future to courting disaster. “It’s kind of like telling a little girl who’s trying to run across a busy street to catch a school bus to go for it, knowing there’s a substantial chance that she’ll be killed,” he said. “She might make it. But it’s a big gamble to take.”

But Dr. Christy’s “relax, don’t worry attitude” has made him the darling of certain Republican members of congress, conspiracy theorists and populist nincompoops who equate education with elitism (except, presumably, when he’s in the room).

And because he appears to rationally demur at the current, standard model of anthropogenic atmospheric warming, his views invariably find their way into the type of news copy that all-too-valiantly strives to be “objective” and “balanced”. (Although, really, if 99 experts on a subject say a thing is about to happen and one says it’s not, does lending both sides equal credence serve the interests of objectivity and balance)?

It hardly matters, because if a thing hasn’t happened, it’s not front-page news. And if there is even the slightest question or debate about its likelihood of ever occurring, it is, at best, Page Nine material.

Now, a story about one fast food giant gobbling up another. . .well, that’s real. Heck, you can almost taste the relevance, can’t you?

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