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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Saving the Fourth Estate: Sam Hurst Online

Hat tip to the estimable e-mail of Mr. Epp!

I have mentioned West River journalist Sam Hurst three times on this blog (here, here, and here). Each time, it's been because he's committed darn fine journalism.

Expect a lot more Sam Hurst links here: he has launched a blog! The Dakota Day: A Journal of Opinion and News Analysis from the Northern Plains. Two words: Yum-my!

The site looks great (I want that style sheet!). It also offers a spectacular manifesto, "What We Believe," placing Hurst's work squarely in the tradition of Edmund Burke, the Founding Fathers, and the First Amendment. He refers to Burke's coinage of the term "Fourth Estate" to describe the press as the "most powerful" pillar of society, a bulwark against business, the clergy, and the aristocracy that made up Britain's power elite in 1786. And then:

The founding fathers anointed the often rowdy, always cynical, hyper-opinionated press with a constitutional halo of public responsibility. Watchdog of unpopular opinion. Megaphone of dissent and controversy. Permanent critic of the state. What did Edmund Burke understand that John McCain and Sarah Palin did not?

At every campaign stop the GOP dynamic duo railed against the elitist press, and late in the campaign Sarah Palin even began to rant that her freedom of speech was being threatened by the revelations of the press. Burke could have offered a tutorial. There is a linkage between the idea of limited government and the idea of a free press. It is the press that keeps government limited, against all the headwinds of special interest, money, and privilege. The louder politicians scream that the press is “elite”, the more we should worry. The more politicians complain that they are “victims” of the press, the more we should cheer. The finest tradition of the press is to enforce the limits of government [Sam Hurst, "What We Believe," The Dakota Day, 2008.11.12].

Bingo. Boffo. Even stern critics of the South Dakota blogosphere, who have rightly lamented the superficial, half-baked nature of much of the discourse online, should enjoy Hurst's lengthy, substantial posts. It's only a week old, but if The Dakota Day can live up to the promise of its first few articles, South Dakota's other online scriveners (and the folks making money at it) will have to step up a notch to compete. Welcome to the show, Sam!

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