Mass Media Coverage of Rural Development News



MASS MEDIA COVERAGE OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT NEWS. A CONTENT ANALYTICAL STUDY OF THE GUARDIAN, DAILY CHAMPION, PUNCH AND DAILY STAR NEWSPAPERS.

In order to have a good and complete academically oriented work, it is required that there are inputs from already existing works as reference.

In this project work, which is aimed at analyzing the level at which mass media especially newspapers covers rural development news in this country, primary and secondary data were used as part of the sources of literature review.

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Textbooks, journals, newspapers relating to the topic were also consulted.

 

LITERATURE REVIEW

Simply put, communication for development is the overall deliberate effort to acquaint targets of development with the desired message of development. It involves deliberate, well desired and articulated communication codes aimed at bringing development messages to the knowledge of the development targets.

The primary motive of embarking on development communication is to create adequate awareness about the developmental projects meant to enhance the well-being of the inhabitants of a given society and by doing, sensitize their adoption of the project. Thus, communication for development according to Edeani (1993:26) is “the use of all forms of communication in reporting, publicizing and promotion of development at all levels of a society.”

The mass media system of any nation wishing to develop should provide a forum for collective discussion and the weighing of the various options in order to arrive at well considered decisions. In other words, to serve the ends of development, the media should provide “a market place for the exchange of comments and criticisms regarding public affairs”. A nation is here viewed predominantly as a composition based on natural agreement between “ordinary people” and the quest for the well being of these people. Suggestions for finding the “common good” have been very several, depending on the basic socio-philosophical stands taken. Attempts to reach the individuals in society, have in the past, necessitated the use of various media of communication with overall development as the goal. For example, quite interesting argumentation and counter-argumentation have been presented since the early 17th century on the linkage between the “common good”, which is what development should be all about, the individual, irrespective of his status and his location in the societal setting, and the state, concerning the so called cameralisation in economics.

In cameralism, it was assumed that the “common good” was best achieved by strengthening the state, as seen as an advocate of individual members of the society, thus enabling to take on more responsibilities. The media – the print and the electronic – are to be seen as means to the state’s ends of increasing in strength by fashioning out strategies of developing not only the state, but more significantly, the individuals who make up the state.

The inhabitants of the rural communities have greater need for the media content, especially the type packaged in the spectacle of what can be seen rather than what can be heard.

Mohammed Ibrahim (1987:3) in his “Training the Broadcast Journalist for Rural Development” observes that our entire approach to training electronic journalists has all along been one sided, “ we have bluntly discriminated against our rural masses and there is hardly any attention paid towards turning out journalists for development support”. He seems disturbed about who should fashion out the ready made materials for the kind of rural programmes we would wish to offer. Should such programmes be made in the urban areas for the study of the peculiarities of the rural community? Or must they be drawn from the rural communities to achieve what he calls the ‘natural blending’?

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Development information is critical in rural campaign not because it alone can solve problems, but because it is a critical part of helping the people understand why have problems, how they can get help and how they can contribute to improving their conditions.

Media strategies for coverage of development in rural Nigeria for instance cannot operate in a vacuum of institutional support. There must be agencies functioning in both urban and local areas to help the proposed change take place.

Competition from other mass media apart radio remains the most promising mass medium for effective coverage of development news, if only because radio reaches people in their own language. Despite the suggested advantages of other low-cost communication media, the cost effectiveness of radio is still more promising.

Radio, in spite of the worrisome generalization that “mass media can do more than creating awareness regarding and development project, it has continued to wax stronger as a medium of the people. In the rural areas in particular, it is not unusual to see people tie a radio set around their waist while climbing trees. It is argued that “of all the mass media generally available to Africans, radio is the most widespread and accessible”. Obviously, radio has over riding advantages over other media of mass communication. Some of these advantages are:

  • Appeals to illiterate audiences as development news and programmes can be broadcast to them not just in their native language but also in their local dialects.
  • Breaks the barriers of distance, as its reach is amazingly wide and highly penetrating.
  • Breaks the barrier of power outage as it can easily be operated using dry cell batteries etc.

 

The television as a medium has not fared well as a medium of development communication because of its acute limited reach and being to date a highly urban affairs.

A participatory rural newspaper according to Kasoma (1991:14a), is a publication for and by the rural people containing news, views and advertisement for the rural community. A number of reasons account for this resolve; one, rural development according to Edeani (1993), is the core of national development. Two, in the light of the above and given the fact that a greater percentage of the masses live in the rural areas, a newspaper designed for the development process should have a rural colouration in operation, orientation and content wise.

Thus, the Nigerian newspaper environment has witnessed the birth and demise of a number or urban-based-rural circulated newspapers e.g Community Concord, Udoka etc. The snag with such publications that were christened community newspapers is that they have urban colouration in terms of their operational base and their content.

In spite of the limitations of a rural newspaper pointed out, a newspaper plays a number of functions in the development process;

Playing traditional functions of informing, education, persuading and entertaining the masses;

Providing better interpreted or-in depth developmental stories that place developmental issues and facts in greater perspective;

Ensuring easier storage and retrieval developmental information etc.

There is no point arguing the fact that the traditional media are indispensable tools of disseminating information about social and rural development programmes. In fact, the emergence sophistication and wide use of the mass media have not taken and may never take the place of the traditional media in development process. The traditional media can therefore, play a number of developmental functions like.

Mobilizing grassroots support for active participation in developmental;

Aiding in innovation diffusion and adaptation as people especially, rural dwellers tend to accord greater credibility to information reaching then through such media etc.

On the need for development in the grassroots, a former president of Tanzania, Dr. Julius Nyerere writes, “While others try to reach the moon, we are trying to reach the villages. In his own observation, Okorie (1986) states that effective rural development is necessarily predicated upon understanding the rural people, the rural environ and the interaction of the rural systems brought about by the rural agencies of which newspaper is one. The way the newspapers discharge these functions determines what contributions they make towards national development.

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Gadzama (9188) points out that, in Nigeria, there are problems of inadequacy in the news coverage of agricultural and rural development projects when compared with other projects and sections of our economy. News coverage given to the rural and development project is not compehensive and efficient.

In his assessment of the role of the mass media in the coverage of rural development news, Jerry Gana (1988) pin-points that the government recognizes the crucial role the electronic and print media can play in the crusade for social order. Patricia L. Sharp (1988) while writing on the “Role of Modern Media and Newspaper in development Communication” asserts that the print media has much to do in achieving rural development noting that well trained reporters and editors can gather the information that the rural population needs.

If communication is that relevant to the development process as indeed, then there is a need to ‘bring news to the rural areas’ as well as “bringing rural areas to the rural news” (Levi C. Nwodu et al). This would mean saturating the entire nations mass media with development news, information and programmes from the urban and the rural areas.

This would again mean that it is not enough to include development issues from the rural areas in the content menu of the mass media in the country but also to have a heavy presence of mass media organizations in the rural areas. This is the only way rural dwellers can be part of the setting of a realistic agenda for development and by extension, participate actively in carrying out the agenda so set by them.

Digwu’s (1980) and Idowu’s (1992) study on “the Relative Amount of Rural vis-à-vis urban news” reveals that a whopping imbalance exists in the coverage of rural news in the newspaper. Oplor in a study on “Mass Communication and Modern Development in Nigeria” discovered that the decentralization of the mass media is a sure way of guaranteeing national security in times of crisis, pointing out that there can be no progress unless beneficial change occurs at the local level. Digwu       explaining more on the result of his  study noted that news about rural areas accounted for only seventeen percent (17%) of the stories found in Nigeria newspapers adding that the focus is mainly negative in rural news. In the analysis, rural news carried by the nation’s newspaper show that about forty-one point two percent (40.2%) were unfavourable, forty point two percent (40.2%) favourable and eighteen point six percent (18.6%) were neutral.

In a recent research carried out by some students of University of Lagos in Mass Communication department on Guardian coverage of rural development news it was gathered that urban news published and covered superseded rural news. In the study urban news had (60%) sixty percent, followed by foreign news with (22%) twenty-two percent and rural news (18%) eighteen percent. The study shows that most of the rural news are basically on disaster, diseases, erosion etc.

The research conducted by Sobowale on “Influence of ownership on Nigerian Newspaper Coverage on National Issues” indicates that more urban news were carried by municipal newspapers than rural stories.

Furthermore, greater percentage of the insignificant rural news found in Nigerian newspapers were not development oriented.

Mc Anany (1980), in his study of “Communication in Development” was not far from the point when he noted that lack of media resources such as man power, transportation and communication  equipment was mainly responsible for low coverage of rural news by newspapers in developing counties like Nigeria.

Oskigbo (1985) in his work “News Flow in balance: Qualification of Nigeria Press Content” notes that out information officers including newspaper managers have not done well enough in sensitizing the people towards the development of rural areas which constitute the center of development programmes.

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Prominent aong the works of scholars on the role of communication in development is that of Lasswell (1948). It stated that information is indispensable in every system considering the fact that it serves the purposes of surveillance, correlation and education.

Rosenberg (1975) in his own contention maintains that it is not exposure to mass media of information but the content of the message that can influence knowledge gain. In the place of the print in development, Dele Giwa (1983) affirmed that the newspaper, the most recognized within the family of the print media are credited with such roles as providing outlets for news information education and entertainment. Schramm (1973) cited the newspaper as a channel for informing, motivating, persuading, instructing and providing a means of collective participation in government.

Jerry Gana’s (1998) assessment of the “Role of the Coverage of Rural News in Development” leaves nobody in doubt that adequate coverage of rural development programmes or projects is the basis for greater productivity economic growth and industrialization of rural areas.

 

SUMMARY OF LITERATURE REVIEW

The deductions and findings gathered from allied works discussed in the literature review lay credence and answers to some of the researchers questions raises in this research topic, such as; is there any relationship between newspaper ownership and coverage of rural development news? To what extent does newspaper location affect its coverage of rural development news? What impact has the quality and quantity of rural news covered by Nigerian newspapers on grassroots or rural development? To what limit does media resources at the disposal of a newspaper affect its coverage or rural development news? To what extent does proximity to rural communities accountable for the coverage of more rural news?

Such works as that of Idowu (1985) and Digwu (1984) attested to the fact that concentration of newspaper houses in the cities with sufficient social amenities and high        leadership was responsible for the coverage of more urban news than rural development news.

Studies conducted by Dube (1988), Sharp (1988) and Nwuneli (1991) lay credence to the fact that low coverage of rural development news by newspaper is immensely responsible for the poor living standard of the people in the areas.

Likewise, research carried out by Mc Anany and Voclker revealed that shortage of manpower, inadequate transport facilities and communication equipment, editorial policy and set goals were responsible for the infinite small coverage of rural development news.

Also there is a contention by some of the scholars that newspapers focus more on negative stories from rural communities and development news, is an answer to one of the research question in this study.

It is therefore important I this study to substantiate these claims as well as give satisfactory answers to other research questions posed by this study.

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