We Need a Vibrant Fourth Estate

The Fourth Estate is a check and balance on the other three

by Eric Holdeman / February 6, 2017

One of the hallmarks of American-style democracy has included the idea of checks and balances between the executive, congress and the judiciary. It has served us well throughout the relatively short history of our nation. If you look back less than 100 years there is the incident of when the President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to stack the Supreme Court with justices to his favor. That attempt was turned back by the Senate. No, I am not writing about the current Supreme Court nominee. He appears to be very qualified and I think that conservatives might find him to be more of a John Roberts than they think. He appears guided by the law and constitution and not by his own personal beliefs.

What I am writing about is the Fourth Estate  The Fourth Estate (news media) are supposed to be guardians of the truth. They are to publicly hold our leaders in the other three estates to account for their actions. The media has been considerably weakened by several things. One is the current trend in people to want their news in "bit-size" headlines. In-depth reporting on a topic is not what it used to be. Investigative reporting, the hallmark of print media, has atrophied as revenues have dropped for print journalism.  The rise of blogs and opinion-based journalism is another knife in the back of investigative journalism.

The last thing I'd like to comment on is the denigration of the truth that is now occurring. Facts are supposed to be "facts." You should be able to have your own interpretation of the facts, but the facts should stand on their own. Truth and facts are linked. When facts are questioned, truth is questioned and people don't know what to believe. Sowing seeds of doubt about the Fourth Estate is demeaning to them and to the people who are depending on leaders to tell us the truth. 

When someone is not telling the truth and they are caught in a lie, it makes all future pronouncements, even if they are factual, come into question. There is enough mistrust in this world without a deliberate effort to cloud the issues of the day with false statements that are only meant to discredit an individual or institution. 


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