THE FOURTH ESTATE
THE FOURTH ESTATE
by Steve Fair
My favorite movie is The Man who shot Liberty Valance. At the statehood constitutional convention, newspaperman Dutton Peabody is introduced. Peabody is the founder, editor and publisher of The Shinbone Star. Peabody is introduced as a member of the "fourth estate." The phrase "fourth estate" was originally used as a synonym for newspapers. With the advent of broadcast media, it’s meaning has been broadened to include all of what is known as the mass media.
The phrase "fourth estate" has been attributed to Edmund Burke, a British politician who said there were three estates in Parliament, but the reporters in the gallery were the fourth estate and they were more important than the other three. Burke’s premise was the careful, concise reporting of the facts by the media would keep the people informed and serve to hold politicians accountable. Burke said that in the 1790s, but a lot has changed in journalism in the past 200 plus years.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines journalism as the collecting of material for the purpose of writing a direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation. Real journalists don’t "spin" the story. They don’t editorialize on the front page. That’s why it’s big news when a major newspaper admits they were biased for one candidate over another.
In Sunday’s Washington Post, Deborah Howell wrote, "From June 9th until November 2nd the paper ran 946 stores about the election in the Post about Obama and only 786 about McCain." "Readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama." "My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show they are right on both counts." Howell concludes.
The Washington Post endorsed Obama and ran thirty-two op/ed pieces praising him, but those endorsements ran on the editorial page. When you read it on the editorial page, you assume it’s someone’s opinion and they may be biased one way or another. When it appears on page one, you expect journalistic integrity and not an editorial. It’s not just the print media that has been biased this election cycle.
Hardball host Chris Matthews said on Thursday that his job is to do anything he can to make the Obama presidency a success. "I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work," Matthews declared. "Yeah, it is my job. My job is to help this country, to make this work successfully, because this country needs a successful presidency more than anything right now," Matthews concludes.
Time magazines Joe Klein is absolutely gushing about Obama. "His election seemed like the political equivalent of a rainbow—a sudden preternatural event inspiring awe and ecstasy."
Before Tuesday, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alters said the only reason Obama could lose would be "racism." "The GOP has now completed a sorry transition from the party of Lincoln to the party of cynicism," Alters states. Understand these are not political operatives working for Obama making these comments. These are trained journalists who flunked the ethics class in college. Every piece they write and every word they broadcast should have op/ed written above it.
If you watched NBC’s Brian Williams softball interviews of Obama and the "grilling" he gave McCain and Pallin during the campaign, it gives you an idea of how just reporting the facts is a thing of the past with the mass media.
According to Media Research, a non-profit research and education foundation, the liberal media isn’t fooling the voters. Liberals and conservatives alike recognized that print and broadcast media were pro-Obama. In a survey conducted by Media Research, 77% of those surveyed said journalists wanted Obama to win. In the same survey, by a 5 to 1 margin, the public is convinced that journalists were trying to help Obama get elected.
In a poll conducted by Rasmussen, a 10 to 1 margin of the public believe that reporting in the mainstream media was designed to hurt Sarah Palin’s candidacy. Rasmussen also found that 55% of the public believes media bias is a bigger problem in campaigns than money. Not surprisingly, Rasmussen found that 63% of those who watch ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC were Obama supporters.
One of the last scenes in The Man who shot Liberty Valance has the editor tearing up "the true story" of who shot Liberty Valance that night in a dark street. The editor tells the legendary U.S. Senator Ransom Stoddard, "This is the west sir—when the legend becomes fact—print the legend." That is what is happening with Obama—the liberal news media is printing the legend, not the facts.
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