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This study analysed comments posted by readers on Vanguard newspaper website relating to news reports of President Muhammadu Buhari‘s election victory and whether such comments are positive, neutral or negative. It also examined if readers used appropriately or abused the comments section of Vanguard newspaper website as provided to serve as a feedback mechanism between the news medium and the public. The study was guided by research questions which bothered on what the connotations expressed by readers indicate about their understanding of news reports on the election of Buhari in relation to the way they used the comments section of Vanguard newspaper website. The reception theory was used to explain how readers receive media reports and how such content of the reports make them to post positive, neutral or negative comments on any media content related to Buhari‘s election based on individual differences and preferences. The theory is concerned with the effect a text has on its readers and how such readers behave after assessing its content. The research method used in this study is content analysis and the duration of the research is from March to June, 2015. The population consisted of 1,135 reports published in 122 online editions of Vanguard newspaper between March to June, 2015. The study used simple random sampling method to select 20% of the population; this resulted to 227 news stories which were coded under the following units of analysis: straight news, feature article, column, opinion and editorial. Also, various content categories were derived and analysed by four coders using established criteria, including the four most frequently used keywords and phrases used by readers to describe Muhammadu Buhari which were purposively sampled from the 14,934 comments attached to the 227 news stories. The collated data was quantitatively and qualitatively presented and analysed using tables. The findings of the study indicate the following: that majority of the comments, keywords and phrases posted by readers on news reports related to Muhammadu Buhari on Vanguard website had negative connotations. This suggests that the comments section is misused as a feedback platform; the comments section was dominated by readers who did not react to issues in the news as presented but used the platform for their own motives regardless of whether or not their comments will cause division or even scare away other readers from the website; the level of tolerance among readers of Vanguard newspaper website is extremely low especially considering Nigeria‘s multi-ethnic/religious society and if left un-moderated, commenters on newspaper websites like this can resort to use of injurious words and phrases that could spark crises in the country; and that despite its abuses, the comments section of newspaper websites remains a veritable tool for free speech, feedback, sharing of ideas, posting eyewitness pictures or videos and providing more facts on news items. Therefore, the study recommended that despite the poor finances of most media outfits in Nigeria, Vanguard and other newspaper websites should consider the use of moderators that should review comments, not in a censorship format, before they are posted on their platforms or else they risk losing readers and potential visitors thereby affecting their online traffic and advertisements. Such moderators should edit comments that do not promote national unity or morality by prohibiting the posting of comments with abusive, ethno-religious, pornographic or foul language by readers.



1.1       Background to the Study

This study examined readers reaction to published news reports through their views

posted on the comments section of newspaper websites. The introduction of online

news publishing by many newspapers have led to citizens across the globe reacting to

such news content with immediacy on the Internet via websites and blogs. These

reactions often come in many forms such as correction, commendation, confrontation,

abuse, displeasure, division, anger, explanation and advertising. These forms of

reactions often led to a better understanding of the news item in focus or a

denunciation of the report as false, public relations (PR) or biased item. (Harper,


Most online newspaper readers are those in their late teens and mid-forties and several

studies have established facts that the most conspicuous users of the Internet are

adolescents and undergraduates. (Kausar & Zobia, 2006). Reading (online or offline)

has often been an interesting phenomenon across all ages and generations and serves

as a vehicle for assimilation of knowledge whether in form of information, ideas or

culture. Generally, reading enlightens the mind, makes the intellect sharper and makes

an individual to travel far without any motion. Reading has been accepted as an

interactive process, a communication process, an active process and a meaning-

induced process. (Braunger & Lewis, 2006)

Reading is not just about printed matter but also about the ability to interpret anything

that is intended to convey a message so as to facilitate communication. Thus, online

reading of published news content differs a bit from printed (offline) matter in the


sense that the former is device-based through a computer, smartphone, tablet or other

micro-devices while the latter is presented in scrolls, books, slates or other hard

surface. Reading and commenting in digital formats have been made easier with Web

2.0 tools that allow for note-taking, highlighting, editing of comments or formatting

while reading online materials such as the type of news content presented on

newspaper websites.

Okonofua (2012) states that Nigeria has a vibrant newspaper industry with a number

of active print outlets, and that as at 2004, there were about 95 reasonably regular

newspapers: 20 national dailies, 23 national weeklies, 10 regional dailies, 19 regional

weeklies, 6 provincial or local dailies, and 17 provincial or local weeklies. As at 2012,

the number had almost doubled with Ayankunbi (2012) positing that the total number

of newspapers in the country is presently within the neighbourhood of 150. Majority

of these newspapers now have websites where they post their news content or post

breaking news as it breaks.

The print media is very agile in the transformation process to serve new readers who

feed on its content via the Internet due to either the lack of their physical presence in

Nigeria to purchase a hard copy of the newspaper or who prefer reading the papers

online in a digital format. Most newspapers in Nigeria now have an online presence

and have gradually been placing about two-third of their daily content for their online

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