Newspapers aren't called the fourth estate for nothing. But in
cities these days, they are more like the third estate, more important, that is,
than the clergy. In fact, their investigations and editorials can
bring down mayors, council presidents, even parties.
Local dailies may be losing money hand over fist, and weeklies, online papers, and blogs have taken away some of their power,
but the dailies still have more power with respect to politicians and
policies than anyone else.
We like to think of newspapers as run by the Benjamin Franklins and
Bradlees of the world: neutral, wise, and looking for a scoop.
But newspaper owners can be seriously political, and often not in
the European way of wearing their politics on their sleeves. This
didn't use to be such a big problem, because cities had multiple
dailies. Few do now.
The ownership of a city daily by individuals with powerful
interests in the community to protect can lead one to thoughts of
extending government ethics into the fourth estate. This is the case
in Philadelphia, according to an
article this week in the New York Times
Seen in Philadelphia Papers."