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A Free Press And A Democratic Public Sphere

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A Free Press and Democratic Public Sphere

“Burke said there were three estates in Parliament, but in the reporters’ gallery yonder there sat a fourth estate more important than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact…Printing, which comes necessarily out of writing, I say often, is equivalent to democracy; invent writing and democracy is inevitable…Whoever can speak, speaking now for the whole nation, becomes a power, a branch of government, with inalienable weight in law making, in all acts of authority. It matters not what rank he has, what revenuers or garnitures: the requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to.”

Since the invention of the printing press the mass media’s effect on politics has been hard to understate. Political theories have been born and died in the span of time marked by the evolution of what we now call mass communication. In this time liberal democracy has come to the forefront as the basic theory behind the systems of government now employed by most all western nations . Together democracy, mass communication, or mass media, capitalism, and the entrepreneurial spirit, which comes there from, have sparked the most rapid period of innovation and invention in the history of the world and some of the freest, most open, and politicly legitimate societies ever to exist. In theory then, mass media is not only beneficial to a democratic public sphere; it is quite imperative. Still, the world does not exist merely in theory, and theory and reality often differ. Today’s mass media, as it has evolved, contains many contradictions that hinder its ability to provide “equal access…to sources of information and equal opportunities to participate in the debates from which political decisions rightly flow.” Nonetheless, because today’s mass media exists in a free press environment the media is of great benefit to democracy.
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