Keeping sunlight on government

Published 2:28 pm Thursday, February 23, 2017

The media has often been coined as “The Fourth Estate,” referring to an entity separate from government, but one that represents the people.

The term, applied to the press, in its earliest use, comes from Thomas Carlyle’s book, “On Heroes and Hero Worship” where he quotes Edmund Burke as saying “there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

It’s every reporter’s job to bring you the most ethical, well-written, informative and unbiased reports of events, actions and people, and The Herald takes that with the utmost seriousness.

One of the main purposes of The Fourth Estate is to be the people’s watchdog when it comes to all levels of government. That’s one reason this state has the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — legislation and policy that assumes all government actions and documents are public and accessible to its citizens. A major component of FOIA is its offering provisions to government bodies and officials where they aren’t obligated to make certain documents public.

That’s the main reason for our In-Depth Look feature series, which ended last week, written by our able sports editor, Titus Mohler. In this bi-weekly feature, we dive deep into a topic, offering details and facts that we may not otherwise have the time or space in the newspaper to do.

In his front page story, you read an explanation of FOIA, how it applies to local government, and, by our questioning and filing FOIA requests for documents, how county administrators and boards of supervisors in Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward and the town manager and council in Farmville fared when it comes to the act’s requirements and standards.

This In-Depth topic is one we’ll revisit annually in an effort to fulfill one of our most important obligations — working tirelessly that government stays transparent for you, the citizens of the Heart of Virginia.

Jordan Miles is managing editor of The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is