Executive Editor Upholds Ideals of the Fourth Estate
I read with great interest and remorse the Fayetteville Observer’s Executive Editor Michael Adams’ “admission of omission” (Fayetteville Observer, Sunday, May 11) as it pertained to his brother’s unfortunate situation in Durham County. I admire his forthrightness but, then again, we are three weeks out on this story. Even though the Associated Press might not have picked it up, the WRAL TV offices are located in the Observer’s offices on Whitfield Street. Nonetheless, as painful as it must have been for Adams to share his story, he did it with sincerity and with style.
I also found it very interesting and relevant that he made reference in his article to the way newspapers are doing, or, in many cases, not doing their jobs. His observations are absolutely correct. Having dependable access to news and information is the bedrock of democracy. And, from where I sit, that is a much bigger and looming issue undermining the effectiveness, trust and integrity of our beloved Fourth Estate.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term Fourth Estate it refers basically to the media creating “checks and balances” on government. Thus, being the “fourth branch” of government. Sir Edmund Burke, while addressing the English Parliament, originally coined the term in 1787. At the time, Burke is reported to have said that, “There are Three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sits a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”
Yes, it is the media that are supposedly safeguarding our democracy; making sure ill intended politicians don’t abuse or game the system. We the media, the Fourth Estate, are supposed to be the watchdogs, reporting the news, stating the facts and uncovering wrongdoing. Instead, we are now tending to mold the news, report selectively, omit the facts or just blatantly refuse to tell the story. Sometimes people forget that news reporting is supposed to be objective. Well, here’s some news, no one expects the Fayetteville Observer to be perfect. Yes, we all make mistakes and no reporter to my knowledge has ever lost their job over making an “honest” mistake. But, more and more we see reporting becoming politically or racially biased omitting obvious facts and generating slanted stories.
It’s almost at a point where the politicians have manipulated the media to a point where they have become their pawns with the determination to render the Fourth Estate impotent. Adams reminds us all that it’s hard to reflect fairness and build a public trust in the absence of integrity and transparency. I admire him for coming forward about the Durham story. It gives us hope and confidence knowing that our daily newspaper, which is the oldest in North Carolina, still has a conscience as well as journalistic integrity and strives to reflect the values, traditions and ideals of the Fourth Estate.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
Photo: The term Fourth Estate refers to the media creating “checks and balances” on government. Thus, being the “fourth branch” of government.