Letter: Advocate a Fourth Estate for New Orleans

Lately it has almost become a rule of thumb that those who decry left-wing bias are those who have a right-wing bias. This surely applies to Jim Richoux’s rant on the May 17 Advocate opinion page.

I haven’t been a reader of The Advocate for very long, but one thing I know is that it is neither right wing nor left wing. But even if it were one or the other doesn’t mean it is not fulfilling its obligation of what a newspaper should be.

The first order of business for a newspaper is to be independent. That is, it should be as independent of extreme views of its readers as it is of the party politics of state and national governments.

This is why after the French Revolution it was called the Fourth Estate, as a way of countering the three estates of the Estates General: the first estate, the clergy; the second estate, the nobility; and the third estate, the people. In the National Assembly those who wanted to eliminate the king sat on the left; those who wanted to save the king but limit his powers sat in the center; and those who wanted to retain the king with all his powers sat on the right. This orientation of left, right and center have followed us throughout history.

A newspaper with an independent position doesn’t have to be in the center. It can be either to the left or right as long as it is responsible in its message. It can’t distort the news, nor can it pander to those who, out of ignorance or malice, scream the loudest to be heard from an hysterical extreme. Otherwise it fails in its mission to be objective. The Advocate succeeds in this regard.

The editorial page is balanced: one day liberals will want to pull their hair out, and the next day it will be the turn of the conservatives. It criticizes Jindal when he deserves criticism, regardless of how we, the readers, feel — which is how it should be.

If The Times-Picayune failed, it didn’t fail because it became more liberal. It failed because the people of New Orleans didn’t want to have a city without a newspaper, and the out-of-town owners refused to sell it to local buyers. Period. Now, with The Advocate, New Orleans has a newspaper of its own. It can be our Fourth Estate.

Steve McMurray

retired art director

River Ridge