Investigative journalism and the Fourth Estate
What is the Fourth Estate?
The fourth estate is a term that positions the press (newspapers) as a fourth branch of government and one that is important to a functioning democracy.
The phrase is attributed to Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797), a British politician, as quoted in Thomas Carlyle's book, "Heros and Hero Worship in History" (1841): Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all.
If the fourth estate is vital to the checks and balances of a healthy democracy, then the fourth estate itself needs a watchdog
It is only a slight exaggeration, though, to say that these days the news media is part of the problem, not part of the solution. It wields financial and political power that was almost inconceivable when the idea of the fourth estate was first bruited over two centuries ago.
If the fourth estate is vital to the checks and balances of a healthy democracy, then the fourth estate itself needs a watchdog. A news media that exempts itself from such scrutiny cannot legitimately claim a right to scrutinise others.
Four Corners has carved a long and proud tradition of investigative journalism, exposing corruption in high places and peering into neglected corners of society. It epitomizes the popular ideal of the news media's fourth estate role as a watchdog on society and its institutions, whether in government, business or the judiciary.
The similarities and differences between the Australian news and investigative journalists. The example of investigative journalists surveyed included most of those responsible for the journalism produced in the 1980s that reinvigorated the ideal of the Fourth Estate in Australia. The data generated from these reporters, editors and producers...