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Reporters Responsibilities and the Urban – Rural News Imbalances in Nigerian Newspapers

Reporters Responsibilities and the Urban – Rural News Imbalances in Nigerian Newspapers

In this study, attempts, is made to review some past studies and expressed opinions. Precisely, three sets of literature are reviewed for this study. The first set comprises gate-keeping studies. The second set is made up of studies on rural representation in newspaper, while the third is a study showing imbalance within the country under review.

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Lewins, one of the great social scientist of our time, applied the term ‘gate keeping’ to a phenomenon which is of mass communication.

Lewins (1947) pointed out that the travelling of a news items through certain communication channels was dependent on the fact that certain areas within the channels functioned as gates. Carrying the analogy further, Lewin said that gate sections are governed either by impartial rules by gatekeepers is in power for making the decision between in and out.

To understand   t he functioning of the gates, Lewin said, it was equivalent to understand the factors, which determined the decisions of the gatekeepers, and he rightly suggested that the first diagnostic task is the finding of the actual gate-keeper.

Schramm (1949) made an observation central to this gate-keeping concept when he wrote that ‘no aspect of communication is so impressive as the enormous number of choices between the formation of the symbol in the mind of the receivers’. To illustrate this in terms of news story let us consider, for example, a welfare festival in a rural community. At the festival, there will be reporters from the various newspaper houses.  All of these form the first gate in the process of communication. They have to make the initial judgement as to whether a story is important or not it is apparent that the several reporters bring to the story different sets of experiences attitudes and expectations.

Larson (1986) know how important the gate keeping concept is, so he wrote that, “what the news media choose to publish can powerfully shape and direct t he public agenda. It is through “gate keeping” process that news media make their choices on what to and what not to publicize.

In (1987), two mass communication research at Boston University, head and starving (1987) employed the gate keeping concept in a survey of electronic media. The result of the study reveal that this concepts influence ‘which events to cover in which place and how stories should be written, edited and positioned in the newspapers”.

White (1964) in a similar study, on the operation of the editor of a non-metropolitan newspaper, discovered that ‘Mr Gate’, as the wire editor is called, selected some stories and rejected others. White concluded that certain things influenced the choice of news stories.

He found out that editors select stories they consider realistic. Also stories, which are representative of the culture and society have the widest chance of acceptance.

Furthermore, Jodd’s (1961) study of the functions and operations of reporters is a small city newspaper revealed three dimensions to the gate keeping process by the individual reaction to the group response and the individual policy, the group response and the individual reaction to the imposed criterion. Besides in the studies conducted by waxman and Dilonigghw (1967) it was common to agree that “reasons for rejecting certain stories were largely subjective ands relied heavily upon value judgement” .

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The studies of these two researchers revealed that what seemed to pass through the gates is determined by the guiding principles or motivations of the gatekeepers (newsmen), and to some extent who the gate keeper is the results also posit a rejection of a study based on the following criteria, duplication of results, lack of space and late arrival.

Moreover, Bass (1964), in a study of the united Nations radio posited that, “more attention be focused on the news gather, for it is he who makes the significant decisions. Basss’s study revealed that the news gather (reporters) decides on which stories to cover and report, as well as how to report such stories, whether negatively or positively.

The study of stempel III (1979), which analyzed the use of associated press stories by 20 metropolitan dailies, revealed that production problems are more important than wire service policies in determining which stories get into the print. Another study by seeman, of a black daily, showed that individual staff members play important role in news.

Further, a study by Jones et al (1961) on news selection pattern from a united states wire station revealed that “date of report and news source” were important consideration in selection of news items.

Grey (1966) in a similar gate keeping study of the united state supreme count reporters for the Washington evening star concluded that “the expectation of the reporters news editor was a factor in his news selection” in the investigation carried out by lindley (1967), it was revealed that “editors” lack of interest and bad language of the writer” were some of the factors for story rejection.


Most studies in gate keeping have death with the selection and rejection of news items in general. However, only a few studies have been on rural representation in the news papers.

An investigation conducted by Duncan (1952), into the weekly press coverage of local government news, revealed that lack of time, shortage of reporters by the rural communities limit the coverage of local area.

Moreover, Judd (1961) observed that reporting a sub-urban setting requires that reporter should have available, “considerable details and skills to interpret local social, political and economic problems”.

Stempell III (1979) in his study of the content patterns of small and metropolitan dailies observed that there is the tendency for small town daily newspapers on hard new in the selection of news”.

Atwood (forth coming) also carried out a study on daily newspapers. The results showed that daily newspapers “contribute to community affairs by influencing what the community discusses through their content.

In a similar study Chicago weekly newspapers, janowitz (1975) found out that they were strong force towards community integration and as systems of communication. Janowitz noted that the community press in an urban setting put sharp hits on reporting of local /rural controversy.


It is worth stating here that only skeletal studies have yet been carried out on the imbalance within a country. It is as if all attention have been focused on the imbalance within a country. For example Righter(1979) has said that “reports about the world seems to be a one-sided issues, some parts are over reported in the news, other parts make little or no new interest.

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Besides, Eke (1975) in a study designed to examine the covered. Of the 756 news items in the newspapers he studied, only 238 (31.5%) showed that there was a concentration of newspaper content in urban areas.

Another similar study by Kyeremah (1988) also supports the quantitative and qualitative news imbalance against the rural areas. The results of kyeremelis study revealed that “Nigerian newspapers devote only 12% of their total news space to rural news.

Furthermore, Disgwu (1985) in his study of the news flow pattern between the rural and urban centres reported that “Nigerian news papers studied devoted 56y.7% of their news content to big cities 4.5% to the rural areas”. The study found that the bulk of the total Nigerian news (83%) came from the big cities.

The study also showed that “the rural news in Nigerian newspapers centered on negative events, such as crimes, disaster drought etc. rather than on community news that would be beneficial to the rural people” (Digwu 1985).

In a study of the imbalance news flow, vis- a-vis, urban and rural areas, Abara (1992), found that all imbalance exist in favour of the urban centers. The results shows that of the, 1,908 news items coded, 1,632 (86%) were from the urban centres, while 276 (14%) were from the rural areas.

The result did not shows the opposite. The result showed that 57% of the rural news items were favourable. Whereas 52% of the urban were favourable.

Besides, “while 29 of rural news are unfavourable, 26% of urban news are unfavourable” (Abara,1991) this study reveals that there is just quantitative imbalance in favour of the urban centres.

Commenting on the imbalance news flow pattern between the urban and rural areas, suleman (1983) said, that “reading the Nigerian newspapers, one will almost get the impression that outside various states capitals and some local government headquarters (urban centres), there are no more human habitations in his study of the local news coverage in Nigerian dailies found that for the one year period covered the six Nigerian dailies devoted 58.5% of their space to urban cities and 8.89 to rural areas. The result confined imbalance in news sharing between the urban and rural areas in favour of the urban cities in Nigeria. The study by Ihanacho and Nwosu (1986) as shows an imbalance news flow pattern against the rural areas.

The results show “57.17% for rural areas, while semi-rural areas got 4.82% for rural items coded”. The results, however, show that qualitative imbalance was at the barest minimum, “55.885 and 31.76% favourable and unfavourable respectively for the urban cities, while for rural areas it is 52.30% favourable and 38% unfavourable.

In support of the imbalance news flow in Nigeria, Ekwelie (1955) has said that undue emphasis is placed on the international dimension of the imbalance. He advised that “every country particularly developing countries, should endevour to solve its own internal information  sharing problem (imbalance).

Exkwelie (supra) further said that “the urban populace seems to be engaged in collective monologue, ignoring the villagers and the farmers (rural dwellers).

In Ghana, the story is not different as testified by Twamasi (198) in his study of the newspaper press and political leadership in developing nations. The study shows that “the Ghananian press neglected the rural masses. The rural dwellers received incomplete and often out-modeled and garbled information whose relevance is not readily perceived, since it is not reported within the villagers frame of reference and scale of value.

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Diffang (1996) in his study of news flow imbalance also noted an imbalance of the countryside by Cameroon newspaper. The results show that “in state owned newspapers, it is 73.3% urban and 4.2% for rural, and in privately owned newspapers, it is 81.39% for the urban centres and 3.6% for the rural areas.

Little Wonder Ehi (1983) in an articled in times international wonders why African countries bother themselves, pointing accusing fingers at the foreign media when majority of the population in their country side (rural areas) are kept in the dark as if they do not exist. And almost echoing Ehi, Alhaji Yaskubu (1988) said, “it was clear that the vast majority of Nigerian in the rural areas were marginalized needs. They, occasionally, when it suited our elities mass media organs, constituted objects of information.

They were almost, never subject. In a similar study on rural representation in four Nigerian newspapers. Akimbo (1988) noted that the rural areas were under reported by the newspapers. The results of his study shows that, of the 3,541 news items studied, only 19.51% is on rural areas (601), 50 .49% (2,850) is on rural areas (691), 50.49% (2,850) is on urban cities.

The three studies reviewed here clearly revealed that a gross imbalance news coverage pattern that does not favour the rural areas exist in Nigerian newspaper. The studies also show that so many activities are going on in the rural communities that are never chronicles. Newsmen (reporters/editors) seems to be pout to erase the ruralities from existence by either omitting or buying news item about them.

It is now obvious that unless the newsmen (reporters) role is examined, is shout for urban-rural imbalance may also end up being called a “dialogue of the deaf”.

This study, therefore, will try to find out if this imbalance still persist till date determine the role of the reporters in the imbalanced news flow pattern.

—-This article is not complete———–This article is not complete————

This article was extracted from a Project Research Work Topic


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