The meaning behind this term is much more than a catchy title.
The ‘fourth estate’ refers to the media being independent of government, and holding a significant role in society.
Current U.S. president Donald Trump has become a harsh critic and even opponent to the news media, to the point that “fake news” has become a recognized term in every day conversation.
While the relationship between the media and politicians hasn’t reached such a contentious level here, there have been a few eyebrow-raising incidents around Queen’s Park in the past few weeks.
The Ford government has launched a new social media account called Ontario News Now.
The account features videos with Lyndsey Vanstone, a former Ford election staffer and now deputy director of communications for PC Caucus Services, as a television presenter highlighting the successes of Ford’s premiership so far. These videos mirror ones produced during Ford’s campaign.
Vanstone does indeed have a background in broadcasting and does a credible job of delivering the message.
The videos are funded through the PC Party’s caucus services, a taxpayer-funded arm that promotes the party. The Official Opposition NDP also has a similar resource.
Governments have long used media releases and more recently, social media, to spin stories to media outlets and the public, so while the launch of Ontario News Now can be seen as a minor transgression, it is something to keep an eye on.
The second, and perhaps more questionable incident, was a case of PC staffers clapping during a media conference with Community Services Minister Lisa MacLeod even though reporters had not finished asking questions.
Whether there was intent to purposely disrupt reporters is arguable, and was denied by the PC Party, but this act is something that cannot be brushed off.
The relationship between politicians and the media has never been the most cordial but it is a necessary and invaluable aspect of democracy.
The media, whether it be print, broadcast or ‘new media’, has the duty to inform the people, and to serve as the middle ground between government and public.
Hopefully, this current government doesn’t follow suit of others south of the border, and try to portray the media as an unnecessary middleman out to intentionally misinform and mislead.