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Is the modern media, often called the "fourth branch of government", an effective check on government action? 

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While the media, or fourth estate, sometimes functions as a whistleblower, shining a light on government corruption (as in Watergate) or publicizing negative public reaction to government policies in a way that blocks those policies, more often than not, it does what Noam Chomsky in a 1988 book called "manufacturing consent." Therefore the media is often not an effective check on government.

The media is not the most effective check on government because the government courts members of the major media outlets, giving them special access, inviting them to dinners and events and often feeding them "scoops" in forms of "leaks" by top government officials. This is hardly done naively: top government officials strive to shape the narrative that appears in daily papers and on daily news outlets to garner the most public support for their initiatives, whether these initiatives are good for the government or not. This can be seen, for...

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