Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, July 20, 2012

Abuses by the Fourth Estate

As the body count in Aurora, Colo., rises and the Media must make retractions about their original information, it appears that the Press/the Media (“The Fourth Estate”) is engaged in leading the public by the nose toward their particular philosophy and this was recognized by the Founding Fathers – Madison, Jefferson, etcetera – as a grave danger to the Republic. 

The bounden duty of the Fourth Estate is to inform, not lead.   Freedom of the press should not include the freedom to deceive.  It should be recognized, though, that rapidly changing conditions of the news must necessitate a flexibility to be able to admit a mistake, an error, or a hasty conclusion.  The correcting of erroneous reporting is as vital as the original reporting itself. 

The history of the Fourth Estate is not something that was thought up the day before yesterday.  It harkens back to the early history of this nation, before it became a nation.  In fact, it goes back to Parliament and the reporters in the gallery, once they were granted the right to publish the proceedings of Parliament.  What does that mean to us?  Let us begin:

The Founding Fathers were students of Edmund Burke, who is said to have been the first to coin the term, “the Fourth Estate”.  In Burke's 1787 coining, the traditional three estates of Parliament were:   The Lords Spiritual (also called the Spiritual Peers), the Lords of Temporal, and the Commons.  The three estates of our republic are:  The Legislative Branch, comprising the two houses of Congress -The House of Representatives and the Senate; the Judiciary (the Supreme Court); and the Executive Branch (the presidency).

The job of the Fourth Estate is to keep an eye on the first three and report to us, the citizenry.  Anything beyond the reporting of facts is a major step beyond the Fourth Estate’s mandate.  A purveyor of false information must have a very good memory because the printed word does not go away easily; it will come back to bite you in a most uncomfortable place.

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