With the benefit of hindsight, the lessons of history and the words from a Supreme Court Justice and from an American President ringing in our ears, how do we assess media’s influence in the way that politics and government are carried out in America? How effective is the media in keeping us informed while keeping our government in check? We can answer these questions by looking at the power structure of American society and the media’s role in it.“Power” is the ability to compel another to do something that s/he would otherwise not do (Dahl 201-15; Lukes 19-24). Preservation of democracy in America depends on the balance of power at all levels: in government, business, the people, and media, which can be seen as the Four Estates of modern American society. Creating that balance of power within and among these four components of our nation is the challenge of democracy. By dividing the powers to legislate, administer, and enforce laws, our government rulers are divided and set against each other based on the principle that the people and their businesses can remain free to pursue progress and prosperity if their rulers are divided. This complex structure of government serves to limit the power of its leaders and was designed to serve not one but many and conflicting purposes (Ranney 85-86). Media As The Fourth Estate.
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Figure 1: Adjusted ADA Scores of Politicians and Media Outlets
(Source: Groseclose and Milyo 2005: 42)
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