“Fourth Estate,” incidentally, is a reference that refers to the mass media. It is attributed to the Irish statesman Edmund Burke, who in 1787 made reference to the three “estates” of the British Parliament, and then alluded to the “Fourth Estate ... in the Reporters’ Gallery,” observing and reporting on what the legislators did or did not do.
The Fourth Estate, Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle said, was more powerful than the three estates of government. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.”
The regard for the power of a free press has been acknowledged in various ways over the years. “Don’t get into an argument with a man who buys ink by the barrel” is one such affirmation.
Yet the imminent demise of the newspaper industry has also been touted. We’ve been proving the reports false and unfounded for – oh, about a good half century now. Longer, if you count those who said the “new” media of radio in the 1920s and television in the 1950s would soon bring about the shutdown of printed publications.
The fact is, newspapers are undergoing dramatic change – just as they have been ever since the London Gazette began publishing in 1666 and Publick Occurrences in Boston followed in 1690.
Just as early newspapers exploited Gutenberg’s technological innovation of movable type, newspapers today are exploiting new communications media, delivering professionally reported content in a variety of platforms.
Professional journalists are now in competition in a new way with “citizen journalists,” enabled by new technology to “report” – or, at least, to publish their versions of things that are going on.
Readers are having to learn, some of them the hard way and some of them quite slowly, the difference between a professional report and gossip, between the fruits of original reports and the plagiarism of others’ work.
We strive for context and completeness, and we deliver it in a manner that is not limited to 140 characters of text.
We are, of course, not without flaws. Professional journalism has itself to blame for some of its present struggles, as cycles of sensational, slanted reporting have served to disillusion readers and competition to be first has compromised accuracy.
We at the Trib believe fervently that the best medium is newspapers and the best newspapers are community publications that serve a local audience in a way that no other medium has proven itself capable of doing.
Our readers are served by a staff whose combined curricula vitae represent 90 years of professional journalism experience, seven professional degrees and experience working for 30 publications, ranging from weekly newspapers to national print and online magazines.
Most “citizen journalists,” most users of social media and an overwhelming majority of consumers of news and information in all forms, seem not to know how elusive accuracy is and how confusing the process of covering a story can be. We get that. We are trained and we have years of experience in sifting disinformation from information and providing an account that neither sanitizes nor sensationalizes.
Our mission is to accurately and objectively report the news of Marshall County; to offer fair and balanced comment on some of the news and news makers; to stay within our role as observer of news and not creator of it.
We and our predecessors have been doing that for some 125 years. Contrary to what you’ve been told, the end is not yet in sight.