Monday, January 10, 2005

For Whom Does the Fourth Estate Speak?

Anthony Sampson looks over the last 40 years of UK power structure to find that while “virtually all other institutions lost status or power -- one branch of public life stood out as having gained power hugely: the media.” Sampson adds that this increase in power has inevitably been accompanied by questions about the media's own legitimacy. “Journalists are not elected, and are, by and large, distrusted. More and more people are asking: for whom do they really speak?” While he survey's media in Great Britain, his findings could easily be applied to those across the Atlantic. Quoteworthy:

From Michael Bichard: "Journalists are powerful people . . .but one of the dangers of power is not so much that it corrupts absolutely, but rather that it can make those who possess it lazy, complacent and arrogant."

From Tony Wright: "Newspapers are being replaced by viewspapers . . . Boundary lines between fact and opinion are being obliterated. Stories are spun to fit an agenda, and many are simply made up."
Sampson concludes: ". . . the more newspapers can engage in public debate with the institutions they criticise, and the more honestly they can represent their concerns, the more they can safeguard their own relationship and credibility with their readers."

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