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BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
From a global perspective, third-word countries which are mostly found in the continent of Africa have been conspicuously backward in terms of development vis-à-vis their western counterparts where a day hardly passes without the celebration of one scientific or technological feat or another. These indicates of underdevelopment and backwardness that characterize the content include, poverty, illiteracy, disease, intertribal conflict, corruption, absence of infrastructural amenities and general mal-administration.
When one looks at the situation in Nigeria, generally, with particular reference to the state of Imo state in South-Eastern part of the country, it is obvious and regrettable that successive governments in the country as well as the state (with the exception of the first civilian government in Imo state (1979-83) had paid lip service towards ameliorating the plight of especially rural and urban dwellers in these states who constitutes over
70% of the population of about 120 million Nigerians (based on projections from the 1991 national census).
The situation is further exacerbated by the infinitesimally low coverage given to rural and urban problems by our national media.
The national media are expected to give full coverage to events in all sections of the society. The extent of coverage should range from the affluent to the poor, from the urban to the hinterland, but this, however, is not so with our national dailies. Indeed, the development of both the rural and urban communities must be given priority attention in the scheme of things. Otherwise, the goal of the national development will be elusive. Be that as it may. It must be pointed out, here, that the goal of community development through an affective newspaper coverage is not without certain constraints. The constraint include
(a) Shortage of staff;
(b)Limited equipment, transportation facilities, communication gadgets;
(c) Limited funds, and
(d) Poor editorial planning
The print media, as has been observed, rarely cover the rural areas in comparison to cities. In fact, very limited time is allotted to these coverage, which are not enough considering the scope of the activities going on there. Granted that some national media have allotted pages to community news and vents, or even supplements for the local areas where each local government area is focused upon, unfortunately, these are not in-depth. Only peripheral issues are covered. Discussion and serious analysis are missing it all boils down to window dressing.
The news media with a target local can cover such a community effectively. This is because there is time for planning and implementation. But in our case here, the general assessment of the coverage by these media is mediocre. This mediocrity in the manner and extent of reportage of rural and urban problems in the society is due largely to the following loopholes identified in the operations of the news media.
(a) No target area: This is obvious. Targeting an are means picking on specific area within a zone and covering them. These
media must regularly highlight development projects, culture, professions, arts and craft, a well as need and deprivations of these areas.
(b)Lack of no-the spot coverage. Those on the scene of event and incidents tend to write authoritatively about them. So, the reporter must investigate in order to be credible. Where a reporter is kilometers away, the study might go stale by the time he gets there.
(c) Coverage is general not specific. The coverage given to issues is often superficial. It does not go into detailed issues.
As the filler of the communication gap between the government and the rural dwellers on the one hand, and the urban and rural populace on the other hand, the mass media are an important player in this enterprise of community development. This is in view of the fact that information provided by these media is a tool for mobilization, galvanization, sensitization and transformation of the rural communities.
The newspaper, for instance, localizes and interpret state and national news for the consumption of the people. Although there is scarcely any community newspaper in Nigeria today,
this void can be filled by national and state newspapers through improved coverage of community activities.
Aware of the ability newspaper to give objective, thorough, sound and fair coverage of community development projects, this research work therefore, is an imperative. Besides, the coverage so given by the newspapers can help by redirecting change agents on the priority of the local populations to avoid embarking on unrealistic projects.
It is against the foregoing background that the researcher embarked on this study – a comparative study of newspaper reporting of rural and urban problems in Imo state. A contents analysis of the Sun, Vanguard and Daily Champion over a period of one month, to determine their roles in rural development.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEMS
This study is strictly concerned with concerned with determining the extent of coverage and prominence accorded
development problems by Nigerian newspapers with a view to identifying the level of commitment of the nation’s press towards rural transformation and emancipation from economic, social and political bondage. Among the indices of underdevelopment are poverty, low standard of living, high cost of living, illiteracy, poor infrastructural facilities, unemployment and disease.
The study sets out to find the reasons for the low coverage of rural news by Nigeria newspapers.
This research work is also pre-occupied with the task of ascertaining whether the amount and quality of rural news carried by the national media are sufficient and capable enough to bring about the desired positive change in the rural communities.
The problems emanating from the low coverage of rural community problems by the Nigerian newspaper equally engage the attention of this study.
This research work is based on two major theories, the development media theory and the Democratic participant media theory. Both theories emerge out of the realization that the original four classical theories viz, the authoritarian, Libertarian, social responsibility and Soviet-communist theories, do not apply strictly to developing countries or where they can be applied, have limited potential benefits because of some peculiar characteristics of the developing countries.
The development media theory is predicated on the premise that the state has a right to intervene in or restrict media operations in the interest of development needs. In this way, devices of censorship, subsidy and direct control can be justified.
Remarkably, this theory emanated from the Sean McBride report of the United Nations (UNESCO) International Commission for the study of communication problems.
The second theory is germane to this work is the democratic participant media theory. This is the latest addition
to the normative theory and Dennis McQuail stands out as a major proponent of this theory.
The theory emphasizes the right to relevant information, the right to feedback, the right to use the means of communication for interaction in small scale setting of community, interest group and subculture. Tersely put, it emphasizes what contemporary development communication scholar term “Participatory”.
OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The relevance of communication in community development, especially in a state like Imo can not be over-emphasize in view of the benefits derivable from such an exercise. The rural areas constitute an integral part of every country from where the development levels of such countries are measure. Over the years, there has been a noticeable neglect of the rural areas. Thus giving rise to urban migration, which leads to loss of manpower, economic hardship and abject povert in the hinterland. In contra-distinction, there is the provision of certain amenities, though not with the best of
intentions, like pipe-borne water, electricity, white collar jobs health facilities libraries, etc in the cites.
At one time or another, certain programmes had been introduced to better the lots of rural dwellers, though they eventually came to naught due to poor implementation and misappropriation of funds. These include the government sponsored farmers co-operative societies, operation feed the nation (OFN) The Green Revolution, the people Bank, Bettter life for Rural women programme and family support programme.
Though the above programmes were targets at rural empowerment, city dwellers ended up the major beneficiaries. Perhaps, the only national programme that has obviously benefited the rural dwellers is the National programme Immunization, NPI.
Therefore, by content-analysis the coverage of rural and urban problems in Imo state by three national dailies, this study aims at finding the extent to which the mass media, in this context the newspapers, have succeeded or failed in discharging their community development functions.
In addition, it aims at determining which of the three
newspapers is more oriented towards community development
through the nature of rural news publishes.
Another objective is to rekindle the desire for the coverage
of community development activities by national dailies with a
view to improving the standard of living of rural dwellers in Imo
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study offers the readers the opportunity to assess the level of commitment of these newspapers in furthering the cause of community development through adequate coverage of rural and urban problems.
It also highlights the place of newspapers in the mobilization, education and sensitization of rural dwellers with a view to bettering their life.
With this study, newspaper editors will see the need for the use of community development news as lead stories rather than as ‘fillers’ in the inside pages.
This work is also a guide to media properties in terms of designing a suitable editorial policy that will give their newspapers freedom to give adequate attention to rural development problems.
The study, apart from helping government fashion out an effective rural-oriented communication policy, may also help in broadening the knowledge of the role, place and
importance of the mass media, especially the newspapers in community development.
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