Fair enough, but isn’t it a reporter’s job to explain how the world really works, not just to reinforce lazy notions? It would have been much more interesting—and honest—to frame the story like this: “No big news was made, but we shouldn’t have expected it. As for long-term ramifications, here’s Obama’s plan, and here’s his timeline. What will he have to do in order to accomplish his goals? What are the odds that he will accomplish them? How might this trip pay benefits—or create risks—down the road?”

It is no indictment of Barack Obama that his personal charms did not sway Chinese policy. It’s a minor indictment of the media that they feigned surprise at that outcome.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.