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The Fourth Estate, also known as the press, has an important role in every political realm. The phrase itself has been attributed to Burke:

It says that it comes from the following quote in Thomas Carlyle‘s book, "Heros and Hero Worship in History" (1841): "Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all."

The presses of the Revolutionary Age were instrumental in our break with the British.  So much so that the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights expressly forbids our Government from interfering with the press:

Freedom of the Press

The 1st Amendment of the Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom ... of the press.” The Constitution establishes a government with three branches, but it does not establish a press or a media. What it does do is prohibit the government from trying to control what people say, either in the press (and by extension in other forms of media) or outside the press.

The core principle is that in the U.S., as distinct from many other countries, the media (and the people in general) are not established or granted rights or status at the discretion or pleasure of the government. Rather, the government's power is entirely derived from the "just consent of the governed." The point of the 1st Amendment is to make sure that the government does not overreach itself by trying to limit the basic rights of the people, such as their right to speak freely, including their right to criticize the government. The government does not grant that right. It already exists, no matter what the government might say or do.

The 1st Amendment states the consequence of that fact: Congress cannot limit freedom of speech. The Constitution recognizes the press's freedom as fundamental and prevents the government from infringing on it.

Our Democracy is dependant on an informed electorate. Voters well versed in the issues they are voting upon.

Media as the "Fourth Estate"

Access to information is essential to the health of democracy for at least two reasons. First, it ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation. Second, information serves a "checking function" by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them.

In the United States, the media is often called the fourth branch of government (or "fourth estate"). That's because it monitors the political process in order to ensure that political players don't abuse the democratic process.

Others call the media the fourth branch of government because it plays such an important role in the fortunes of political candidates and issues. This is where the role of the media can become controversial. News reporting is supposed to be objective, but journalists are people, with feelings, opinions and preconceived ideas.

But what happened?

The press in DC have relegated The Fourth Estate to a cafe.

The media at least 90% of it is owned by six major corporations. TV, Newspapers, cable, radio... All promoting identical talking points. Talking points that just happen to benefit the 1% and their handmaidens.

I agree with Jimmy Carters statement regarding this country. "A failed Democracy" and with the press as it stands now is it any wonder?

But a magical thing happened- The Internet.

Now we too can use the internet to find the news. There are plenty of us. The MSM does not want the job. And our country needs us. So we must be the press. We need to look at state and local political activites and examine their relevance to the average voter.

So join me in the effort to bring back the Fourth Estate 2.0

Originally posted to State & Local ACTION Group on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 02:49 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Fourth Estate.

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