5 of the most underreported stories of 2014

Posted at 10:25 PM, Dec 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-19 09:53:41-05

While important stories about the Ebola crisis, Islamic state group and nationwide protests dominated headlines this year, the news media neglected other important stories.

Prominent journalists met at the Woodrow Wilson Center last week to discuss the most underreported stories of 2014.

No one at the event would admit to missing an event outright – one journalist said that would be tantamount to admitting to malpractice – but they shared news they said should have gotten more widespread attention.

1. Loose nukes in Pakistan

Pakistan has at least six nuclear sites and could have as many as 200 nuclear devices by 2020. The Wilson Center’s Director Jane Harman said local reports described warheads being transported in vans, which could be a serious problem in a country with an active Taliban presence. (The discussion was held before Tuesday’s attack on a school in Islamabad where more than 100 students were murdered by Taliban forces.)

“There’s one I think at least we should devote a few brain cells to,” Harman said.

2. Civil war in Syria

While the Islamic state group has gotten the most attention in this country in recent months, Robin Wright, a former Washington Post reporter and a Wilson Center scholar, said the conflict between rebels and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces has been largely neglected.

“There are two wars playing out in Syria,” she said. “We’re doing almost no examination or exploration of the war that has to do with the government in Damascus.”

Wright said Assad’s forces have dropped 2,500 barrel bombs in the last 50 days alone. She said they are crude bombs filled with shrapnel, chlorine and fertilizer-based explosives.

3. Losing Libya

The attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi has become a partisan talking point and still makes headlines. But Wright said that there are other important developments that should get some attention, too.

After the death of Moammar Gadhafi, many in the international community hoped the new democracy would remain stable. But militants Islamists now control Benghazi and Tripoli.

“We are losing Libya,” Wright said. “The elected government has very few resources to regain power.”

4. U.S. economy

Greg Ip, a U.S. economics editor for The Economist, said that the most underreported story about the economy is how well it is doing.

“The pace of job growth is not just strong, its accelerating,” he said. “Within a year, we could have an economy that is fully back to normal, and yet opinion polls find that most people think we are still In a recession.”

But wages remain low, and households are still worse off than they were in 2007.

The problem the United States has is the inability to produce more goods and services, Ip said, because the country doesn't have enough labor and capital to do it. And the aging U.S. workforce will exacerbate labor problems in the coming years.

5. EPA regulations

The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller said the Keystone XL pipeline was the biggest environmental story of the year, but it wasn’t the most consequential.

“The much bigger story is the EPA regulations that aren’t nearly as sexy,” she said.

Those regulations, which were announced over the summer, would force states to come up with a formula for their existing coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon emissions by a set target.

“Over the long term that will have a far greater impact on the environment than if the Keystone pipeline is built,” she said.

Reach reporter Wesley Juhl at or 202-408-1491. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.