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The Fourth Estate Fund

New Hanover County — a small, relatively affluent coastal community that's sitting on over a billion dollars in philanthropic money.
Eric W. Peterson / New Hanover County
Downtown Wilmington and New Hanover County on the left of the Cape Fear River; to the right, Eagles Island and Brunswick County.

The Fourth Estate Fund was founded with the support of Beth Crookham, a performing artist, philanthropist, and longtime supporter of public media in southeastern North Carolina.

Crookham's generous founding donation supports WHQR's ability to deliver in-depth reporting on key issues, from the environment to the criminal justice system to the protection of free and fair elections. It also supports WHQR to showcase new and diverse voices in journalism — and develop a regional pipeline for the next generation of journalists.

Beth Crookham photo; Fourth Estate support and previous donations.

About the importance of 'The Fourth Estate,' from Stanford University's 'Journalism in the Digital Age':

Journalism has long been regarded as an important force in government, so vital to the functioning of a democracy that it has been portrayed as an integral component of democracy itself. In 1841, Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

The fact of the matter is that democracy requires informed citizens. No governing body can be expected to operate well without knowledge of the issues on which it is to rule, and rule by the people entails that the people should be informed. In a representative democracy, the role of the press is twofold: it both informs citizens and sets up a feedback loop between the government and voters. The press makes the actions of the government known to the public, and voters who disapprove of current trends in policy can take corrective action in the next election. Without the press, the feedback loop is broken and the government is no longer accountable to the people. The press is therefore of the utmost importance in a representative democracy.

Another, related, function of the press is to expose people to opinions contrary to their own. This function is perhaps the most valuable in the Internet age; while people can in theory get information about the actions of their government from online sources, it is all too easy to find opinions online that match one’s own. Informed decision-making on the part of voters requires an awareness of multiple points of view, which is not likely to be obtained if voters bear the sole responsibility of seeking out information on relevant issues. The news media provide a forum for debates to take place, as well as moderating and curating the arguments presented by all sides.