What is the role of the media, or the “fourth estate”? Describe and explain the three roles of the media, providing examples of how it has fulfilled each role. What threats and complications stand in the way of the media’s performance of these roles? Identify and explain at least two factors that may distort or damage the media’s reliability.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Three key roles of the media are those of gatekeeper, scorekeeper, and watchdog.

Gatekeeper refers to the power and influence in placing and keeping a given issue in public view. An example would be choosing to headline a local story rather than a national one.

In the scorekeeper role, the...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Three key roles of the media are those of gatekeeper, scorekeeper, and watchdog.

Gatekeeper refers to the power and influence in placing and keeping a given issue in public view. An example would be choosing to headline a local story rather than a national one.

In the scorekeeper role, the given medium enhances the report with numerical data, such as updating election results with each candidate's number of votes.

The watchdog role refers to the media's responsibility to research or investigate an important issue of public interest or security. The classic example is Bob Woodward-Carl Bernstein's Watergate investigations of the Nixon presidency.

Security is one major consideration, as shown in Edward Snowden's leaks of classified information. Revealing military or civilian intelligence can endanger the operatives. Another is protecting the privacy of victims of or witnesses to a crime.

The ethical responsibility to protect informants may damage credibility if the news organization reveals its source. Conversely, publishing or airing unsubstantiated stories will reduce public confidence. An extreme example is invented or plagiarized stories that New York Times reporter Jayson Blair published as factual in the early 2000s. The recent proliferation of "fake" news has severely eroded public confidence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team