The decline of the fourth estate

The decline of the fourth estate

It has been another exciting week along this the most conservative stretch of Old Route 66.  One historic date that passed nearly unnoticed was the 228th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution which was Thursday, September 17th.  I realize I refer to the Constitution often as so many topics I write about somehow relate to it.  Honestly, how many people have you ever known that walked around with a copy of it in their pocket?

The_Constitution_of_the_United_States

 The Constitution is the one document that is the heart and soul of the nation.  The Bill of Rights is what defines America and chief among them is the First Amendment.  The First Amendment guarantees five freedoms:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Of those five clearly delineated freedoms there is one which pertains to an entire industry, one commonly referred to over the years as the Fourth Estate.  I do believe that a free and independent press is essential to a vibrant democracy.  Sure, in America we have freedom of the press and by extension, the media.  It is one thing to have a right and it is another thing to know its boundaries and it is yet another thing to understand its responsibilities.  Allow me to borrow another quote from comedian Bill Maher, “We have a Bill of Rights.  What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities.”  Now more than ever do we need responsibility in the media along with accountability, accuracy and impartiality.  This is a difficult balance in an industry  thats bottom line is driven by ratings.

The big news of this past week was the second Republican Presidential candidate’s debate at the Reagan Presidential Library which was televised on Cable News Network (CNN).  In a moderated question/answer format, moderator Jake Tapper allowed each candidate to elaborate on their answers to his questions and many made assertions expressed in charismatic delivery which were not based in reality as later fact-checking bore out.  I realized several assertions made by the candidates were over the top and not factual when they made them but what bothered me is that nobody it seemed, not the moderator or any designated fact checker present on stage, called them out.  I understand that this was a showcase event so the candidates could show the voters who they are but are there not any limits on broadcasting overt falsehoods?  These debate participants are candidates for the office of President of the United States.  Should it not be the moderator’s duty to keep them grounded in factual discourse?  After this public display of media sanctioned arrogance and ignorance I totally understood why such a large segment of the public doesn’t take them seriously.  Honestly, I couldn’t either.  I also am to the point where I cannot take any organization calling itself “journalistic” seriously for allowing so many blatant untruths to go unchallenged.

Antique_CBS_mic

Ever since the advent of cable news in the early 1980s I have been a news junkie.  Ever since my discovery of National Public Radio shortly thereafter, I have been a dedicated NPR listener.  Indeed, I am well into my fourth decade of listening to NPR for most news regarding politics, world news and current events.  As it turns out, NPR listeners are the best informed.  I have always admired and respected NPR contributors and commentators because, as public servants, they are rigidly held to high standards and ethics pursuant to the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.  When it was recently noted that a long time NPR contributor may be failing listeners in terms of impartiality, I was rather upset.  Mara Laisson, who is also a contributor to Fox News, was recently called out for failing to mention Hillary Clinton’s closest rival in the campaign for the Democratic nomination.  If we cannot trust NPR to give us the straight, unspun story then who can we trust?

Liberal_bias

 Sadly, it is a polarized climate we find ourselves in this election cycle.  It is one thing to have a corporate slogan like “fair and balanced” and it is another thing to have a fairness doctrine.  With corporate media seeking to safeguard its own interests, I would not count on any political candidate not corporate endorsed receiving equal time let alone an impartial review.  It is therefore up to independent citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to disseminate the message of populist political candidates.  The Constitution is a beautiful thing and it becomes greater than any one individual when each member of a grass roots movement implements the true meaning of its creed.  The Bill of Rights is alive and the First Amendment endures!

Image courtesy of AlterNet.org

Image courtesy of AlterNet.org

2 Comments

  1. Tom
    Sep 20, 2015

    The sad thing is that many of the mainstream media outlets have also just stopped reporting most news. Try finding news on MSNBC on the weekends. Fox is still reporting its pretend news, but no such luck on MSNBC or even in most hours on CNN. Our free press has freely chosen to dumb down their news to near useless sound-bites and celebrity gossip. And good luck finding a single conservative news source (even in print) that is still fact-based and thoughtful, believe me I’ve looked for such for several years with no luck. We need a publicly-funded alternative press whose mandate is to actually inform the electorate, since the for-profit media empires have utterly failed to do so. I hate to suggest state-run alternative media, which could be ripe for future abuse, but if we had a BBC equivalent, perhaps we’d be a little better informed. I always enjoy the news in the EU and Canada; they may be going the same way as our media, but so far still report much more of substance.

  2. Sheri Forester
    Sep 20, 2015

    Very well put Stan! I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this important matter.