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We need a Fifth Estate

A story that came through my newsreader last week You Don’t Understand our Audience and summarized by Ars Technica resonated with some of my thinking around a book I’m working on.

The way the United States system was set up was an attempt by the Founding Fathers to avoid the perceived problems of the English and French political systems of the day. Congress balances the Executive Branch while the Executive Branch balances Congress. The Judiciary is there to ensure that Laws are Constitutional and that the actions of the President are Constitutional. The press – the so-called “Fourth Estate” – reports on, exposes flaws and generally keeps the rest honest.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Avoiding the political commentary on the first three “Estates” (Executive, Congress and Judiciary) it’s clear that the press and media have failed us completely. The linked article begins to explain why but one thing that’s not noted there is that “the press” has changed significantly since the days of the Founding Fathers. Then, there were hundreds of small, independent (and local) newspapers – not a very limited number of very powerful “media corporations”. The White House Press Corps are intimidated and will never call out the press secretary when they are clearly, obviously and provably lying; or where other lies can be easily proven by playing back a tape. But they don’t and they let the people down when they don’t. They know their job requires access to the press room and they too scared to do their job.

But they fail America because of their timidity. With so few media outlets obvious lies do not get exposed by timid “journalists”. We need a return to hundreds of independent voices uncovering lies and doing real journalism.

I hate to say it but it seems the blog-o-sphere is our last chance to save democracy and “keep the bastards honest” to quote Don Chip – a now-dead politician in Australia who led the third party trying to break the duopoly of political power that exists there (and in the US).






4 responses to “We need a Fifth Estate”

  1. It seems to me that The Daily Show is the only “news” outlet taking politicians to task on a regular basis, calling them out on lies. (Can’t wait for the writers strike to end!)

  2. Do’h – totally forget the role of The Daily Show. True. So True.


  3. I didn’t want to comment until I’d read the Hockenberry piece. Relying on the blogosphere to be the de facto Fourth Estate is dangerous as it requires access to the public Internet — pipes that happen to be owned by many of the same interests that own mainstream media, and thus have an interest in promoting the status quo.

    Details about the book please.

  4. Hermis Yanis

    I was in attendance on Thursday February 21st at the BOSFCPUG meeting in which Philip presented. He talked about the “Fourth Estate” and I knew I was at home. I attended in order to hear his tips on getting video to the web in its best possible quality.

    I produce my own cable TV show on a local County-wide station (WCTR TV 3) in Worcester, Ma. and my political commentary shows have become popular since no-one conducts their commentaries as I do.

    The politicians in these parts hate my guts, and they have let it be known.

    Previously I announced “The Hermis Yanis Show Awards” which graced President Bush & Dick Cheney with the “Benedict Arnold” & “Scum Bag of the Year” awards (our Mayor resieved those honors as well) and several other Federal, State, County & City officials have been the recipients of my political commentaries.

    Many are the days I feel that I’m the only one left with the nerve to take these “Maggots” (another award) on.

    Great to witness your presentation Philip, I hope to be able to catch you again soon.