Free Markets, Free People

Roy Clark

The “Fifth Estate”

Interesting term being thrown around to describe the emerging “new media” alignment:

I recently heard the term “Fifth Estate” used at a Poynter conference to describe an emerging landscape for news, information, community and citizenship. It has also been used to describe the work of bloggers, but that circle may be too small for such a big term.

In my head, the Fifth Estate includes the Fourth Estate, the idea and value of a professional press corps as a way of informing and engaging the populace, and holding the powerful accountable. This vision of a Fifth Estate sees the Fourth Estate as necessary but insufficient for democratic life. The Fifth Estate could express what Jay Rosen has described as a “pro-am” model for the future of news, a frame that sees that the freedoms and responsibilities of the First Amendment empower not just a professional caste of news gatherers and distributors, but potentially every citizen.

I think it needs some tweaking but essentially, what was the “fourth estate”, i.e. professional journalism with a relative monopoly on the news reporting function (they still mostly enjoy a monopoly on the news gathering side although that is changing too) has now become what Rosen describes as “pro-am” in some fairly telling ways.

This trip I’m on, for instance, has driven that point home. Yesterday, I stood beside a reporter from Forbes and Reuters in a couple of exclusive press conferences and asked questions after a panel discussion that included the folks I mentioned yesterday. I was joined by 10 other bloggers. In my estimation our questions were more pointed and dug deeper than did those of the news organizations. It was an interesting experience. The guy from Forbes thought it was cool. They guy from Reuters didn’t. That’s pretty much indicative of the “MSM’s” perception of bloggers I think – but the interesting thing was my press credentials were just as valid as theirs. Heh …

Anyway, as I told one of the MSM members yesterday as we chatted, I’m not a journalist and will never pretend to be. I write opinion pieces, and I don’t pretend to be “fair and balanced” . I also said I thought that there was room for both of us in all of this to which he agreed. And, as I pointed out, blogging seems to have become pretty mainstream since most newspapers now have journalists blogging on site.

I really haven’t had a chance to put my thoughts together on the 3 hour panel we sat in on yesterday, but the short version of it was “hey, we need to have a non-partisan dialog about energy planning and we need to find a way to engaged the consumer in the conversation” all the while also saying, “legislation is heading down the track like a freight train and it isn’t very well thought out”.

Anyway, more today if I get the chance.

~McQ