Revisiting the Fourth Estate: does the media still serve democracy?

Posted on: 26 April 2021

To mark the announcement of the Trinity Long Room Hub’s new Schuler Forum for Democracy, an online event tomorrow (Tuesday 27 April), will convene a panel of journalists and academics to look at the media as the “fourth estate” and ask how the media can effectively support democracy.

A free, pluralistic and independent media is essential to a healthy democracy. The press has been cast as the ‘fourth estate’, or the watchdog of society, since the nineteenth century. Wielding indirect power and influence, this has never been without controversy or criticism. And with a rise in polarisation, conspiracy theories, censorship, and fake news, should the media still be seen as the backbone of a liberal democracy today?

This panel discussion explores whether, in a changing media landscape and deepening global democratic recession, the ideal of the fourth estate is still desirable and attainable. The media is a recognised factor accelerating the democratic decline of the last two decades, but as new technologies, platforms and finance streams open up alternative avenues for participation, the media might also be a vital source of democratic renewal.

Who: Speakers

  • Bruce Shapiro is Executive Director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of Columbia Journalism School devoted to innovation in news coverage of violence, conflict and tragedy worldwide. He is also a contributing editor at The Nation magazine and Adjunct Professor and Senior Advisor for Academic Affairs at Columbia University (New York), where he teaches journalism ethics.
  • Karlin Lillington is a columnist with the Irish Times focusing on technology, with a special interest in its political, social, business and cultural aspects. She also has written for publications including The Guardian, New Scientist, com, and and served on the board of RTÉ. She has a PhD in Anglo-Irish Literature from Trinity College Dublin.
  • Razan Ibraheem is a journalist and activist based in Dublin. She is a specialist in verifying social media content and videos, with a particular focus on the Middle East, and worked for six years as Assistant Editor at Storyful. She is a human rights advocate, UN refugee speaker and Irish Tatler’s International Woman of the Year 2016.
  • Elspeth Payne is the Beate Schuler Research Fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub where she leads the Institute’s democracy initiative. She holds a PhD in History from Trinity College Dublin and is currently working on a monograph on the British tabloids and Anglo-Irish relations in the 1920s and 1930s.

When: Tuesday, 27 April 2021, 2 – 3:00pm

Where: Register here:

Other details: 

Information on the Schuler Forum for Democracy:

Based in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, the Schuler Forum for Democracy has three key objectives:

  1. To apply the unique perspectives of the Arts and Humanities to deepen understandings of the challenges facing democratic systems and cultures and identify pathways to democratic renewal;
  2. To act as an innovative centre of knowledge exchange, bridging the divides between academia, government, civic society and the media to translate Arts and Humanities research into real world practice and activity;
  3. To engage diverse audiences through a dynamic public humanities programme and explore new participatory networks and outlets.

The Schuler Forum for Democracy is generously supported by Dr Beate Schuler and is funded from July 2021 to July 2024, during which time research and engagement activities will address the theme of the media and democracy.

Media Contact:

Sabina Eberle, Media Relations Officer | | 086 067 9315