Featured Resources [VIDEO]:
Covering the current administration has presented a challenge for the news media. This video highlights some of the field’s strategies to present accurate information to the public.
Disclaimer: The word ‘bullsh*t’ is used by the host at the 4:59 mark. Refer to the first Additional Resource below for an alternative featured resource if this presents an issue.
Welcome to Do Now’s Special Series on “The Press, The Presidency & Propaganda”. We live in a controversial and confusing political climate where there are daily disputes about what is factual and true, and what is not. We think it is important to have the vocabulary and media literacy background to think critically about different ways the nation and its leaders speak and write about issues that matter to us.
Join us here on Wednesdays in February for Do Now questions exploring different aspects of the press and propaganda as it relates to the presidency and public knowledge.
February 1: Lying Politicians & Propaganda
February 8: Censorship
February 15: The Fourth Estate
February 22: Citizen Accountability
The Fourth Estate
The free press is often referred to as the ‘Fourth Estate’, a phrase coined by an 18th century Irish politician and philosopher, Edmund Burke, who observed the role of reporters overlooking government proceedings. “[T]here were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”
Journalism and a free press play a vital role in our democracy. As these Stanford students put it:
“In a representative democracy, the role of the press is twofold: it both informs citizens and sets up a feedback loop between the government and voters. The press makes the actions of the government known to the public, and voters who disapprove of current trends in policy can take corrective action in the next election. Without the press, the feedback loop is broken and the government is no longer accountable to the people. The press is therefore of the utmost importance in a representative democracy.”
Today’s journalists are expected to abide by a code of ethics founded on a set of core principles: truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity, and accountability.
Covering the Trump Administration, however, has presented a challenge for the news industry, as some see it, with daily press briefings reverberating the falsehoods of the administration and other representatives spinning facts during media appearances.
In some instances, investigative reporting has held the administration accountable for its approaches. The most recent example is coverage of the administration’s communication with Russia from the Washington Post and the New York Times. Their reporting led to the resignation of former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. In other cases, at times the television news media has failed to inform the public on the workings of key issues, instead giving a platform to administration representatives who spin facts to mislead viewers.
How do you think the news media’s coverage of our current administration is going thus far? Based on the core principles listed above, what is one recent example of ethical news coverage and one example of unethical coverage? Are there notable differences between print and television news coverage?
Respond in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #DoNowFourthEstate.
The Five Core Values of Journalism [Ethical Journalism Network]