David Frum: For a weekend, Hurricane Irene transfixed media attention.
Kai Ryssdal: Commentator David Frum.
Frum: National networks as well as local news -- they reported breathlessly minute by minute the progress of the storm.
And you know what? While some of the reporting was silly, the shows by and large did a public service. People took precautions. The barrage of warnings had a positive effect.
But why is it only weather stories that command such breathless attention?
Meanwhile, the world's largest currency union -- the euro -- continues to careen toward disaster. The euro's travails weigh heavily on the United States' economy too. Yet just try getting anybody interested in that outside specialized financial media.
Day by day, week by week, the fiscal and monetary authorities in Europe are making decisions--mostly very bad decisions -- that are hastening the day when a southern European country either quits the euro or is ejected. That would be followed by debt defaults and bank failures -- bank failures that may well contaminate non-European banks as well.
It's not a sure thing. But then neither was the flooding of lower Manhattan by Irene a sure thing. We still worried. We still took precautions. And when we got lucky, we were glad to have paid attention.
Yet where is the minute-by-minute coverage of our financial exposure? If the worst happens, it will happen for most Americans out of a wild blue yonder -- just as the crash of the housing bubble did.
The things that most actually threaten our lives and prosperity, especially financial and economic events, do not always suit the deadly formulas of rapid-fire news delivery. They become dramatic only after it is too late.