Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-1-2013

Abstract

From the introduction:

For most if not all public interest issues in contemporary governance debates, there are in effect four branches of government, not three. For better or worse, the modern media constitute the essential public information source playing a determinative role in the intensely political internal processes of modern government at every level. To ignore the fundamental reality of this Fourth Estate 1 is not to fully understand modern civics and is to risk repeated shortfalls for citizen initiatives attempting to advance public welfare. In no other field is this proposition more evident than in the realm of governmental protection of environmental resources and values.

This essay seeks to draw useful analysis and perceptions about the modern media's systemic impact upon national governance, using a highly charged, true-life parable from Tennessee, examined in the hindsight of over thirty years. A national environmental saga that arose from Tennessee more than three decades ago-when a group of citizens persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to block completion of the Tennessee Valley Authority's final dam project because it endangered a tiny "snail darter" perch-intensely reflected the decisive role played by the acts and omissions of local and national media.

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