The Public Interest

The new journalism and the old - thoughts after Watergate

Paul H. Weaver

Spring 1974

THE “fourth estate” of the realm--that was Burke’s way of summing up the role of the press in his time, and when one has discounted the medieval terminology, his phrase is no less apt today. It reminds us that the press, as the coequal of other “estates,” is a political institution in its own right, intimately bound up with all the institutions of government. It affects them and is affected by them in turn, and together they determine the nature of the regime and the quality of public life. Governmental institutions have political effects through their exercise of legislative, executive, or judicial powers; the press achieves its impact through the way it influences the entry of ideas and information into the “public space” in which political life takes place. So the basic question to be asked about the press is: What is its relation to other political institutions, and how does it consequently manage the “public space"?

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