The media. in France there was a system of three classes. The first was the clergy, the second the aristocracy and the third the common people. Today, people consider the fourth estate the media.

Sometimes, the print media is considered the fourth estate, and electronic media is the fifth estate.

    In old days men had the rack. Now they have the press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralising. Somebody - was it Burke? - called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time, no doubt. But at the present moment it really is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism. In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for ever and ever.
    The Soul of Man - Oscar Wilde

Even though the word today has been shortened to State, sometime during the medieval era people began to use the word estate to describe a key “political or social group or class.” ” The number of ‘estates’ in most of the nations of Christendom,” says the OED, “has usually been three (exceptionally four, as in Sweden and Aragon), but the specific enumeration has varied considerably.” For example the British estates that Parliament was initially composed of were the Clergy, Barons and Knights, then Commons. Over time these groups were called Lords Spirituals, Lords Temporal and Commons. The French had their own designations for estates, Clergy, Nobles and Townsmen or the tiers état which were the French bourgeoisie before the Revolution. Additionally the Scottish estates were originally Prelates Tenants in Chief and. Townsmen until 1428 when they were called Lords, lay and clerical; Commissioners of Shires and Burgesses. In modern times the first two estates are rarely referred with their numerical designation and the third estate are considered to be the people.

“You know, the boys in the newsroom got a running bet.” –Don Henley

In the 1700’s British politician Edmund Burke (1729-1797) referred to the daily press or Reporters’ Gallery when he said, “Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, more important than them all.” This was a vast improvement over the more jocular descriptions of the day such as “the army” or “the mob.” In 1841 Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) attributed the Fourth Estate of the Realm to Burke his book Heroes and Hero-Worship. The Hero as a Man of Letters., however the OED says there has been no confirmation of Carlyle's attribution saying that, “A correspondent . . . states that he heard Brougham use it in the House of Commons in 1823 or 1824, and that it was at that time treated as original." William Safire writes in Safire's New Political Dictionary (1993) that his vote for the originator of this saying goes to William Hazlitt, an English essayist, describing the personality of William Cobbett in an 1821 issue of Table Talk, “He is a kind of 'fourth estate' in the politics of the country.”

The expression eventually became a synonym for newspapers. Often one would hear it interchanged with Fleet Street meaning British Journalists and journalism in general. Although most of the press has moved away one can still find it located in the middle of London where they had their offices. With the introduction of radio, televisions, and news magazines the fourth estate now includes all of what is known as the mass media and the expression is often used with a sense of irony as in, “bring in the stick of the 4th estate"

The fourth estate is being watched by the fifth estate -unknown
More recently the phrase the fifth estate has been surfacing in text which Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines as, “any class or group in society other than the nobility, the clergy, the middle class, and the press." The earliest allusions are for groups like trade unions, the poor and organized crime. Another reference that indicates the fifth estate comes from those frustrated with mainstream journalism claiming that it is abandoning its task of presenting unbiased reporting. In this sense, the fifth estate could be an alternative newspaper that tends to appear online now days and, in a general sense, currently means any sort of electronic medium.

Sources:
E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.

Estate, Oxford English Dictionary:
http://dictionary.oed.com
Acessed June 20, 2005.

fourth and fifth estates, The Maven’s Word of the Day:
http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20010828
Accessed June 20, 2005.
Fourth estate, The Phrase Finder:
http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/20/messages/488.html
Accessed June 20, 2005.
World of Words, Ask Oxford:http://www.askoxford.com/
Accessed June 20, 2005.

Re: 4th estate, The Phrase Finder:

http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/39/messages/430.html
Accessed June 20, 2005.

Fourth Estate, Online Etymology Dictionary:http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fourth+estate:
Accessed June 20, 2005.

Word origin, etymology or word history quiz. - Taiwan TeacherAnd last weeks answer is:
http://www.geocities.com/athens/delphi/1979/trivia.html

Accessed June 20, 2005.

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