prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Journalism: The 4th Estate

Posted by prof e on May 31, 2008

Journalism is often called the 4th Estate because of it’s role in the political process. Historically the notion of press as the 4th estate is found in 18th century French writings. At the time the three estates were the aristocracy, the clergy and the bourgeoisie. In modern times we might think of them as the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government. While these bodies set policy, make laws and interpret the law, it is the press that reports abuses of authority and defends the rights of citizens. In essence the press allows all members of society to participate in the democratic process. Without a free press to examine and critique the political process, governments operate in secret and may easily subvert the will of the people.

The release of Scott McClellan’s book* this past week provided a reminder of the delicate relationship between government and the free press. Former White House Press Secretary McClellan served the Bush administration after Ari Fleischer and before Tony Snow and the current Press Secretary Dana Perino (CSU-Pueblo/MCCNM alum, 1994). According to press reports, McClellan now claims that the press shirked its responsibility in the months and years leading up to the Iraq war. Rather than serve as the nation’s watch dog, the press corp was too easy on the Bush administration. According to McClellan…

“If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq,” he writes.

He continued, “In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

These quotes are from the man who, while press secretary, criticized the media for being too aggressive and for undermining the administration’s efforts to protect the country. Of course hind-sight is 20/20 and it is too easy to second-guess decisions that were made under very difficult conditions. Today members of the press continue to defend their performance in the period between 9/11 and the start of the Iraq war. Here’s a video clip in which the three network TV anchors respond to the question. What do you think? Does the press fulfill it’s role as guardian and watch dog, or is it too easily manipulated by the forces that control wealth and power?

* What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. Currently ranked #1 at Amazon.com

Advertisements

4 Responses to “Journalism: The 4th Estate”

  1. Kimberly Finnie said

    I would love to believe when I turn on any news broadcast that the information I am receiving is direct and uncensored. After watching this Today Show clip between three major network anchors (Brian Williams, Katie Couric, and CHarles Gibson.) There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of news reported to us regarding the war in Iraq is monitored by our White House administration. Even though Scott McClellan has been quoted in his book as saying the media didn’t ask the “right questions” in the months leading up to the war, Couric and even Williams both agreed they had similar instances where the Pentagon or even the press secretary has contacted them threatening to change their “tones” or questions or their access would be blocked. If these are the kind of things our administration is doing behind the press table, how could it even matter if the media asked the right questions? Chances are the white house staff are well aware of what to say and what not to release to the public. It makes it very disconcerting about what news we are receiving now. It feels as if we will continually always be missing a big part of the picture.

    Kimberly Finnie
    June 3, 2008

  2. Amanda Peltier said

    I wish to believe that the news that I get from anywhere isn’t censored or changed to please someone. After watching the clip now it really comes to my attention that what is reported sometimes isn’t always what is happening. As for McClellan saying that the media didn’t ask the “right questions” it is hard when the Pentagon calls threatening you what can a person do? It appears that the white house only want to release certain information regarding certain issues. This makes me feel that we are missing an even bigger part of the news that we will never know about.

    Amanda Peltier
    June 4, 2008

  3. Julie Melton said

    Wow. That Video clip makes you think. It makes you question the truth you are getting on the news. In my opinion, all of the information from the White House and the Iraq War should NOT be brought to the complete attention of the media. There are some things that are better left unsaid. As for McClellan and his “right questions” I’m not sure there is a right question. There are certain news we as American Citizens should know however there are certain “right questions” that we may never know.

  4. Alex Timmons said

    [What do you think? Does the press fulfill it’s role as guardian and watch dog, or is it too easily manipulated by the forces that control wealth and power?]

    The same old argument?

    One could argue both positions adequately, but I believe a larger and more telling truth would be missed. The gist of the problem falls into the lap of the media consumer. In short people neither know how to nor why they should take it upon themselves to explore the ideas to which they are exposed while using any given network or outlet. And at best, most consumers refer to less than four potential resources for understanding local or national news topics: A favored cable or television news network, a news paper, the net(maybe a blogsite or two), and undereducated peer(s). In short, media users think about issues as if trapped in a bubble of talking points severely lacking in nuance and overflowing with spurious fact. The irony of it is that I’m likely addressing communication students.

    Herein lies an important distinction… It is easy to cherry pick redundant facts and to then base conclusions on evidence developed by others, it takes much more time and personal investment to explore an idea.

    The PEOPLE, generally speaking, watching the talking heads are lacking personal inquisitivenes on a scale so astonishing that it makes perfect sense that we find the 4th estate in the condition it is. We are a nation of willing believers, simple herd animals. On the right you have the elephants, and to the left the donkeys. In the middle we find the ever grazing sheep and cattle chewing their proverbial cud.

    [In my opinion, all of the information from the White House and the Iraq War should NOT be brought to the complete attention of the media. There are some things that are better left unsaid. As for McClellan and his “right questions” I’m not sure there is a right question. There are certain news we as American Citizens should know however there are certain “right questions” that we may never know.]

    This is undoubtedly a statement by a college student who is completely obedient to the authority of the unknown. Too inept and too irresponsible to ever question anything effectively. Thus my point about the apathy of the modern media consumer comes full circle. Look no further than the mirror folks, and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    Now were blogging about a rat(McClellan) who finally decided to listen to his conscious and admit to willingly and knowingly towing the party line by spinning the facts the white house was willing to release and subverting the ones not so easy to explain away. We want to play the role of the victims by blaming the media, who do in fact bare some responsibility for some obvious reasons, but no one as yet has been willing to say, “It’s my fault, I made no effort to study the situation, to ask questions of my own, to speak up and out about things I just didn’t understand.

    In the run up to the war, you are the lazy morons who were siting on the couch or at the computer or at the bar with friends regurgitating mudane talking points and who were more concerned with the theatrics and bloviations of wartime rhettoric. Shame on you all. You’ve gotten exactly what you’ve expected. Nothing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: