Newspaper Editorial Readership Among Urban Residents (A Case Study of Abakaliki Town)
Newspaper Editorial Readership Among Urban Residents – The mass media in the society is seen as the “eye” and the mouthpiece used to express feelings and at the same time protect the rights of the masses. It serves as the watchdog of the people ensuring that they are kept adequately informed of events and issues within the society. The four basic roles of mass communication identified by Lasswell (1971) are surveillance of environment, correlation of parts of the society in responding to the environment, transmission of social heritage and entertainment function. To order the Complete Project Material, Pay thr Sum of N3,000 to: BANK NAME: FIRST BANK PLC ACCOUNT NAME: CHIBUZOR TOCHI ONYEMENAM ACCOUNT NUMBER: 3066880122 Then send the Project Topic, Your Email Address and Full Name to 07033378184.
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The correlation functions include interpreting and analyzing information about the environments and prescribing due conducts in reaction to events in the society.
In transmitting social heritage, the media helps to inculcate knowledge, value and social norms from one generation to another or from members of a particular society to members of other society. The entertainment function entails creating a relaxed mood for the audience and amusing them but at the same time educating the audience.
The newspaper which is part of the mass media is a strong tool used in addressing social issues, interpreting events and ensuring that readers are informed and entertained. Newspapers come in various shapes and sizes depending on the house style of the organisation, different type faces and letterings are used to add colour and help beautify the paper so as to attract more readership. The main items found in newspapers include news stories, features, and editorials, cartoons, puzzles etc.
Most newspapers are divided into sections to help the readers easily locate their interests and such sections are: The features, foreign, women section, sport section, news, Entertainment, political page etc. All these are essentially created to educate and persuade readers to keep patronizing the paper.
The editorial section is an important part of a newspaper, it is quite odd to see a good newspaper without an editorial page, and it is like the heart of the media organisation. According to Daramola (1997: 50), “the editorial or opinion department comments on news and newsmakers to bring about desired changes in the society from the editorial page the readers are able to feel the pulse of the editorial board and get to know their views concerning societal issues. The opinions of the editorials should be supported by facts because it is vital to the development of a good newspaper and it sets the tone or direction of the newspaper.
It is necessary for an editorial to have a title, a short and incisive one that helps to give an idea of the editorial’s content at first glance; and also presage the tone of the editorial. It is from the title that the readers easily get the tone of the opinion. For example an issue of the sun newspaper (Vol. 4. No. 1046) carried its editorial title in this manner- “Cocaine in Virgin aircraft.” Also the Guardian carried this title “A new foreign policy thrust?” (Vol. 25 No 10527) with these titles, the reader is able to know what exactly the editorial is commenting on. Editorials perform the basic functions of attacking, teaching, defending and praising Okunna et al (2002: 221).
Every newspaper organisation has an editorial policy which basically sets down the mission of the newspaper with due regards to the ethics and values as dictated by the social economic environment. Also influential to any editorial policy is the political and cultural environment.
Etim (1996:20) says that: “a newspaper should seek to sustain aviable band political community which will enable the people to live a free and reasonably prosperous life. It must gather and disseminate information truthfully and stand firmly between the people and the authorities of the same system”.
However, like any other newspaper message, editorials are hardly read or are usually glanced at or flipped through by most readers although it is a very vital part of the newspaper. Editorials are fast becoming a standard feature on the editorial pages of Nigerian newspapers and in various magazines as well, ‘Vanguard’, ‘Daily Sun’, “The Guardian’, ‘This Day’, ‘Business Day’ and a whole lot more are some of the newspapers that feature regular editorials in Nigeria today.
For most newspapers except for change of pagination the editorial remains in the same position and on the same page. It does not shift according to the desire of the page lay-out person. It acquires a kind of cult status and the regular reader is inexorably drawn to that particular position in the newspaper.
Like news, timeliness is the key word; an editorial becomes stale when it appears too long after the news hase take place as they are supposed to be the collective view of the news organisation on timely events in the news.
Generally today, over 140 years after the emergence of the first newspaper in Nigeria called “Iwe Irohin” in 1859. Nigeria can now boast of over a hundred newspapers nationwide. The readership level of newspapers especially of the editorial that can help them in mouding their opinion and stand on issues have increased if traced back from the inception of newspaper in Nigeria.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
This study by and large will endeavor to find out the extent of editorial readership among the literate Abakaliki residents using three out f the numerous daily newspapers existing in the country at the moment as guides for the research. The three dailies are: ‘Vanguard’, ‘Guardian’ and the Sun Newspaper.
Specifically, the study shall try to show the attitude of readers to editorials and why they read them. Also the study will try to determine which out of the three daily newspapers is the most read and the reason for the preference of that newspaper’s editorial to the others.
OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
The basic objectives of this study are:-
- i. To determine the newspaper out of the three dailies with the highest readership of editorials.
- ii. To determine audience reactions to editorial content.
- iii. The level of newspaper editorials will be determined.
- iv. To know reasons for reading editorials.
- v. To see where efforts could be made to increase editorial readership.
SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The study shall be of immense benefit to the readers , scholars in the field of mass communication and newspaper organisation’s management for the following significant reasons:-
- It will help to appraise how Abakaliki Urban residents read newspaper editorial that is the frequency.
- It will show the attraction editorials hold for the readers.
- It will reveal the interest level of readers to the editorials.
- It will show the preference for a particular newspaper editorial to others.
- Lastly, it will show the effect of editorial content on the readers on societal issues.
(i) Do Abakaliki Urban residents read newspaper editorials?
(ii) How frequently do they read the editorials?
(iii) Why do they read newspaper editorials?
(iv) Which out of the chosen daily newspapers do they prefer to read most?
(v) To what extent does the editorial affect the readers?
1. Ho: A large number of Abakaliki Urban residents do not read newspaper editorials
H1: A large number of Abakaliki Urban residents read newspaper editorials
2. Ho: They do not read editorials frequently
H2: They read editorials frequently
3. Ho: Audience does not have reasons for reading editorials
H3: Audience has reasons for reading editorials
4. Ho: There is no particular preference for a newspaper editorial
H4: There is a particular preference for a newspaper editorial
5. Ho: Editorials have no influence on the readers
H5: Editorials have influence on the readers
The press has become an integral part of our society and in a world that is fast becoming a global village, no society can afford to starve her people of the much desired information which is essential because communication is linked to every need. The newspaper has become a veritable tool for information in the country it dutifully serves its audience and without it there can be no meaningful development in the world.
Since this study is dealing with editorial readership, it becomes imperative to employ the uses and gratification theory as the theoretical framework. The uses and gratification theory in its main attempts to identify the various kinds of human needs for which people claim that they select and attend to different categories of media content to list of satisfactions that people say they obtain from attendant to the media.
The theory is one that has engaged the mind of the audience about media contents consumption which they explain in relation to the power of the media to gratify general needs of the audience for fresh ideas and knowledge. It focuses on the benefits derived from the media by the audience whether or not the gratification sought is actually obtained.
Nwodu (2006: 120) says: “The notion of uses and gratification theory pre-supposes that media audiences are active audience members who deliberately expose themselves to a given media content to gratify their needs”. The process and effects of mass communication should be seen against the background of an intensively active audience seeking what it wants and rejecting more contents than it accepts.
SCOPE/ DELIMITATION OF STUDY
This study is essential limited to Abakaliki urban residents, this has been necessitated by the fact that there wouldn’t be enough time and funds to study all the newspaper readers in the country. Also the focus is on just three newspapers in Nigeria, despite the fact that there are over 50 existing newspapers in the country. As stated, time and financial constrains limits the study.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
NEWSPAPER: This is simply a collection of events and issues packaged in news form to satisfy man.
EDITORIAL: This is a newspaper message which is persuasive in nature and which represents a news organisation’s opinion about a public issue. Simply put it is a collective opinion of a news medium on an issue of public concern. It is not a personal opinion of the editor or publisher; it is based on facts and must be written timely.
READERSHIP: This is the rate of exposure to the editions of newspapers.
This part reviews the basic concepts and variable of this study which is basically on the editorial and its readership. The chapter therefore looks at the definition of editorials, the place of editorial among the mass media messages, the functions of editorials as newspaper message and some of the criticisms of editorials in Nigeria among others issues pertaining to this study.
There are relatively few studies that have been carried out on readership of newspaper editorials among Abakaliki Urban residents. Most researcher tend to base their studies mainly on general readership of newspapers or they use other towns, cities or communities as their basis of study. Therefore in other to give empirical relevance to this study, there is the need to review pertinent literature researched and written by professionals and scholars in the field of mass communication.
Hopefully, this research would help to add to the already existing literary works, books, journals and periodicals available on newspaper editorial readership.
AN OVERVIEW OF PRINT MEDIA MESSAGES
In mass communication, message can invariably be said to be the central element, every other element of the process of mass communication tends to revolve around it. Newspapers are in the business of attracting readers and this can only be achieved through the messages they pass to their audience and the feedback they get in return.
Communication has been defined by various scholars all pointing to the fact that it is an interaction by means of symbols. This interplay between communication partners is called the communication process. Message is a symbol that can arouse similar meaning in both the sender and receiver. Uyo (1987), opines that “with specific reference to mass communication, message can be the theoretically define as the symbolic product that mass media organizations create and disseminate to the public towards the fulfillment of their functions to the society or mankind which includes news, education, information, entertainment among others.
On a general note, every page of a newspaper or magazine contains several messages that may be of the same or different kinds and which may be continued on another page of the same issue and one of such messages in a newspaper is the editorial.
MEANING OF EDITORIAL
Different communication scholars in their various studies see editorial in various perspectives. An editorial according to Anim (1996) is “a newspaper’s opinion on issues of contemporary significance”. It is a comment on an issue in the news. Editorials are written by the editorial board as part of their opinion formation function to the society.
The editorial is the voice of the newspaper, a published article or a broadcast arguing the opinion of the management of any media organization usually on matters of public concern.
Uyo (1987), defines editorial as “a comment, opinion or view which is basically the most read message in the newspaper”. Also Akinfeleye (1987) sees editorial either in the newspaper or magazine as usually “the opinion of the newspaper or magazine as explicitly expressed on burning issues or matters of the moment within the society or community in which the medium operates”. He also explains further that editorial could be on international issues in which the host country of the medium has an interest. For example, editorials on condemnation of terrorism are usually common in newspapers based in the Western or European countries and many other frontline nations in Africa.
In giving the definition of editorial, Daramola (1997) says an editorial is “a comment on news and newsmakers to bring about desired changes in the society”. An editorial is supposed to be a well reasoned piece of opinion writing that raises an issue of great importance to the society at large.
However, it could also be a global issue such as the need to fight terrorism and ways to seek resolution of conflict in the Middle East. Whatever its target, the editorial reveals the media organization’s position on an issue and usually urges action.
The editorial should be able to stir readers to do their own decision making, giving them a view that is well researched for the laymen. The primary audience is the public and through them the leaders of the nation hold power and get their views through open debate. In editorial writing, information and arguments come together to provide guidance in helping the public consider sides of issues and to reach an opinion.
An editorial position is formed in different ways, at some newspapers; the editorial board analyses issues and then reach a consensus on the paper’s point of view. At a broadcast station, the manager in consultation with the news director may formulate a position in newspapers, editorials are rarely used, but most times the station manager deliver the editorial themselves.
Generally, whether it is intended for the print or broadcast media, the editorial is the most analytical and persuasive of all news items because it focuses more on issues. The editorial according to Lauren and McDonald does not show the same aggressive sales function of the advertisement field but its closest relative in terms of organization and style is the speech.
Unlike advertisement, editorial does not use humour or satire frequently but instead it is aimed at expanding both the information and perspective of its audience for use in decision making.
Research findings according to Charles Wright have shown that editorials cover issues that are not of interest to the readers. He says that: “it is the duty of the newspaper to stimulate thought of action on issues and objectives for public concern”. Editorials are supposed to be based on facts and not self interest or opinion.
Akinfeleye (1987) posits that editorial is never the opinion of the editor or the publisher. Although it is common practice that the editorial board writes the editorial, such editorial must be debated and approved by the board before it is published. Usually, a majority decision of the board of must be reached before the editorial is published.
Sometimes the editor may disagree with the view of the editorial but has no choice once majority of the editorial board says it is alright to publish it.
In the contemporary society today, newspaper editorials are becoming more important and are widely read more than some other articles in the entire newspaper. Editorials are important and widely read because they are usually based on topical issues in which the readers are involved one way or the other. The editorial may be on a very controversial issue.
Okunna et al (2002) opines that “editorials have become a standard feature on the editorial pages of Nigerian newspapers and in some magazines as well”. The Guardian, Vanguard, The punch, Daily Sun, Champion are some of the newspapers in Nigeria that feature regular editorials. Editorials are usually published regularly on a specific page known as the editorial page but however placed on the front page when they concern issues that are extremely important to the newspaper.
Most private newspapers use their editorial to support or attack the government in office. Factors that affect the direction of the editorial comments include partisan politics and business profit making. Most of these private newspapers fear to bite the fingers that feed them.” Government owned newspapers will be more supportive of government policies and actions than privately owned newspaper.
McCombes (1979) highlighted the different uses members of the audience make of the editorial messages -surveillance of the environment. People read the editorial messages to know what is going on in their environment and the World at large to be informed on what they should know.
Okunna et al (2002) states that: “readership survey done in various countries of the World show that many people (more men than women) read editorials”. Older, more enterprising people tend to read editorials more than the youths. In times of crisis, readership of editorials is higher.
Readership of newspaper editorials could depend on many factors ranging from need for entertainment to a serious desire to keep abreast the events happening within and outside the immediate environment. Readership pattern varies from individual to individual.
A readership study conducted by Schramm and White (1982), shows the relationship between the preference of contents of newspaper to age, education, societal or economic status.
The report shows that newspaper readership changes from search for entertainment contents to information and serious viewpoints on public affairs with the increase in the age of the reader.
Schramm and White further explain that people on the lower end of the educational ladder tend to use the newspaper for entertainment while those on the higher ladder tend to use it less for entertainment and more for information on public affairs.
Hynds (1994) sums up the view of the vital roles the editorial plays in the society thus: “editorials provide information, analyses bench marks and public forums to assist readers in making decisions and taking actions on issues”. The editorial must speak in the manner of voice which stimulates thinking and public discussion of issues to them. It must cite an event and present an editorial reaction.
Editorials act as a forum of exchange of information and opinion and also provide community leadership also through institutional stand on issues. Other editorial functions include clarifying issues, soliciting opinion from readers and setting agenda for community actions as well as providing inspiration and entertainment for readers. “A proper arrangement of the main stands of a media organization of an issue in the editorial presents a clearer perspective to the public” Anim (1996).
MacDougall (1973) in his own contribution says that: “a good editorial is one which succeeds in achieving the intention of its author to communicate a particular message to the readers”. In other words for an editorial to complete its mission it must be incisive and invigorating.
READERSHIP OF NEWSPAPER
Many scholars agree that any given action or change will be accepted by the people as long as it is favourable to them. Readers are more likely to read messages that are neutral than hostile ones. In other words it could be said that people tend to be fascinated with things that are consistent with their attitude or that which awakens their curiosity.
The role of the mass media varies from culture to culture so also does the attitude towards the different media vary from place to place. Readership of newspapers could be influenced by the credibility of the newspaper. Credibility has been seen by different people from different perspectives.
Competence and trust worthiness of a newspaper are factors that comprise its credibility. Also authority, reliability, intelligence and expertise also make up the credibility of a newspaper. The close relationship between a paper and its audience could also be a factor for the newspaper’s level of readership.
Generally, it has been observed that despite the continual growth of the newspaper industry and increase in the number of newspapers, its readership has declined in recent years. People tend to read news, features and adverts in the newspapers while totally ignoring the editorial page because it is not considered useful to them.
A study of newspaper readership in Kaduna in 1973 by Dan Agbese shows that education and income are important determinants of people’s readership in Nigeria. Those in high income levels read more newspapers than people with low income level and low education. The findings also show that more readers favour analytical articles on current issue like education, science and economic matters while most female readers read news items on fashion and social news.
Generally, there has been a contention on which Nigerian newspaper, editorials are read most by Nigerians, this work will determine out of these three dailies. (The Guardian, Vanguard and the Sun newspaper) – Which the residents of Abakaliki Urban literates prefer the most.
CRITICISM OF EDITORIALS IN NIGERIA
A number of criticisms have been leveled on editorials in Nigeria, Okunna et al (2002) enumerates the following criticisms:
1. Editorials are said to be written in a hurry in Nigeria and this has the tendency to make them shallow and lacking in profound thoughts, which should be the hallmark of a good editorial.
2. Some editorials are written with only the highly educated in mind. Editorials are supposed to be people oriented and written in simple language rather than it being bookish. Efforts should be made in Nigeria to widen the appeal of the editorial. It shouldn’t appeal to the highly educated class in the society alone.
3. Poor editorial contents is another criticism of the Nigerian editorial. When the content of an editorial is too long it bores the readers and when it is too short it is considered to be lacking in ideas. A good editorial should be well researched and should not be based on personal opinion, feelings and beliefs. Editorial conclusions should be based on sound arguments.
4. Editorials have been criticized to lack style, editorials written in a hurry without research end up being shallow and convey shallow thoughts. Wooliness of language and hackneyed expressions are also problems of Nigerian editorials.
Thorough research work must be carried out before publishing any editorial, care must be taken to avoid poor diction and poor choice of materials so as to write good editorials.
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This article was extracted from a Project Research Work/Material Topic “READERSHIP PATTERN OF NEWSPAPER EDITORIALS AMONG ABAKALIKI RESIDENTS: (A FOCUS ON VANGUARD, GUARDIAN AND THE SUN NEWSPAPER)”
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