Education Editorial: The "Fourth Estate"

By: Bill Bosher - email

Young people in high schools and colleges learn much about the relationship between democratic societies and freedom of the press. The news media, and particularly print journalism, is referred to as the "Fourth Estate".

According to Wikipedia, Thomas Carlyle attributes this reference to Edmund Burke in a 1787 parliamentary debate about opening the House of Commons to the Press.

Young people also understand "with rights come responsibility."

New "Fourth Estate" vehicles, like "PolitiFact," have been developed as watchdogs for potentially unsubstantiated or false public comments. Perhaps the media should add its own tool to spell check and Grammatik?

While reading a recent article in the daily newspaper, a headline jumped from about the fold of the Metro Section, "In Poll, Va. Voters back U.Va.'s Sullivan". While as an alum, I was glad to see the banner and hoped that it was a form of healing.

In July 1,673 voters responded to the poll. 27% indicated that they favored the President and 3% did not. Then came the number that defied the headline…68% said that they did not know enough to have an opinion.

The articles lead sentence was, "University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan was the clear winner, the Rector who tried to fire her was the loser…"

Now for the declared "loser", 21% had an unfavorable view and 5% were favorable. 72% said that they did not have enough information to form an opinion.

Maybe there is a lesson here for November about the popular vote, the electoral college, and how we declare winners.

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