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Cartoons have more recently become a prominent feature in newspapers. An increasing number of publishers and editors have realised its relevance and are beginning to exploit its full potentials. Despite its usefulness and popularity which is assuming a viral dimension in many media houses, one wonders, as replete and common place as these cartoons are in newspapers, do they command the attention, let alone the readership of the reading audience? Hence, this researcher sought to know the pattern and trend of: Audience perception of The Punch newspaper cartoons: using Caritas University as a study. Employing the survey research method, enabled by administering self administered questionnaires, this study found out that newspaper readership and newspaper cartoon readership is generally high among Caritas respondents. Six out of every ten lecturers read cartoons on a daily basis, while two out of every ten students read cartoons every day. Cartoon readership decreased as student readers got older. Among the lecturers, readership of cartoons increased with age contrary to findings among students. With the humour and the inherent message being the major reasons why readers read cartoons, it is clear that cartoons are not seen as mere pieces of drawing to make readers laugh, rather it leaves a trail of telltale message in its wake. Even though this study revealed that cartoons are not essentially why people buy newspapers, many newspaper readers do not consider their reading experience complete without reading one or two cartoons. This, perhaps, explains why seven out of every twenty Caritas student reads The Punch newspaper and ten out of every twenty Caritas lecturer reads the same newspaper as revealed by the study. Going by the various findings of this study, more newspapers need to incorporate cartoons into their editorial menu, using it more strategically, appropriately and responsibly. Religion, ethnicity, tribalism, sectionalism and bigotry should be downplayed in cartoons and in fact avoided. The researcher equally lends his voice to the effect that cartoonists should steer clear of issues that can cause libel because libel costs millions.
1:1 Background of the Study
Communication being a mandatory factor for interaction and correlation, stipulates the need to communicate with individuals in a contemporary civilization which is a basic requirement for survival, just as food, clothing, shelter e.t.c. are essential for human existence.
Communication, the most vital form of human interaction, is absolutely necessary for any enduring human relationship, be it interpersonal or international. Groups, institutions, organizations and nations exist by virtue of communication and cease to exist once communication is totally interfered with.
Communication therefore, is the livewire of any society and the world at large. It stipulates the paramount factor of unification due to the fact that a society that is kept in-communicado is a dead one. Indeed, communication is the fulcrum of social intercourse and the mirror through which society sees itself.
Cooley in Daramola (2003:1) asserts that ―communication is the mechanism through which human relationship exist and develops‖. It is through effective communication that every part of the society is accessed and social and institutional changes effected.
Communication is, undisputedly the carrier of social system. It shapes people and people shape it. Proper and effective communication provides useful information that enables people make informed decisions and well executed actions.
In compliance to dissemination of information and communicating effectively are journalists. Journalists who are professionals trained for the collection, processing, correlation and dissemination of information, are powerful gatekeepers and actors whose work sustain a society. The print media journalist through their news stories, editorials and opinions contained in newspapers and magazines, not only set the agenda for public discourse, but also reflect the environment.
Casmus in Abdulsalaam (1987:49) has said ―a newspaper is a nations conscience‖.
Akinfeleye (2003:18) observes that journalists are ―public servants informing members of the public on issues of public interest‖.
Essentially, they are the watchdogs who keep watch on the institutions of the society. They are, therefore expected to inform and educate the people and also create a forum which affords people the opportunity to examine and consider all sides there are to an issue.
Modern newspaper tends to carry many light and sensitive materials including articles written in a light mood. This feature fulfils the entertainment function of a newspaper. Among the light content is the cartoon.
According to Ahuja and chhabra (2002:22-23), cartoons are one of the light materials used by newspaper houses to lighten the mood of their readers as they (cartoons) have become an integral and common feature of most newspapers, if not all. In the words of Ahuja and Chhabra, ―even the most serious newspapers and magazines nowadays are expected to carry strip cartoons or topical comics here and there. It is one thing on which most of the newspapers seem to be agreed as it makes for the continued popularity of such newspaper…… and offers a welcome change from the cares, anxieties and worries of everyday life‖.
Rivers et al (1977:20-21), said that as an ―entertainment tool, cartoons provide respite for the individual which, perhaps encourages him to continuously indulge himself with such palliative media messages‖. Regardless of the escape they provide from the supposed ‗dreary‘ and ‗boredom‘ of reading straight news, features, commentaries and opinions, they are also a rich source of humour, satire, innuendos and parody, often used to condemn, commend, and generally pass across salient and trivial messages.
In most cases, rather than real pictures, cartoons are used to illustrate stories, events, occurrences and happenings. They also lend some aesthetic value to the overall design of a newspaper or magazine. In fact, cartoonists are known to make a decent living from cartoon drawings, just as more print media houses are beginning to appreciate the value of cartoons and devoting more newspaper space to it.
According to the Longman‘s Contemporary English Dictionary, cartoons are funny drawings in newspapers, often including humorous cartoons. The Oxford Advanced Learner‘s Dictionary describes a cartoon as an amusing drawing in a newspaper or magazine, especially one about politics or events in the news.
According to Obasi (2011:149), cartoon is a drawing or series of drawings that tells a story or expresses a message. It can be a type of drawing, usually intended to be amusing used in newspapers, magazines and books.
Pictures are said to be worth a thousand words according to a Chinese saying, and as cartoons happen to be funny pictorial representations of real events and/or characters, this saying also applies to them. This is so because pictures are able to depict more clearly things that have to be explained in so many words. Apart from newspapers, cartoons are also used in magazines, journals, books as well as television programmes where they are animated and made to seem as if they are moving.
Newspaper cartoons have, however been employed as a tool for editorializing i.e. passing across the organization‘s view on pertinent public or national issues. They have been used to
accompany stories to illustrate what is written. Cartoons help sensitize people against social vices, thus facilitating positive human interaction, yet bearing in mind the entertainment function they are designed to serve.
Cartoons have proved to be very indispensable because while some individuals may not be literate enough to read and adequately understand the message contained in news stories, they are still able to have an understanding of cartoons and the recognition of the subject in such cartoons.
Boss Tweed, an American politician, unwittingly underscored the importance of cartoons when he was quoted in ‗last laugh‘ (Campbel et al 2000:35), to have said back in 1871 ―stop the damn pictures, I don‘t care for your newspaper articles, my constituents can‘t read them, but they can‘t help seeing them damn pictures‖, when cartoonist Thomas Nast published satirical cartoons about his political activities. It can be said with some measures of certainty that reading and understanding cartoons might not be a problem in an academic community such as Caritas University Amorji-Nike, Enugu among lecturers and students. Therefore, it becomes pertinent at this point to do a profiling on the object of study.
Caritas University is a private catholic university, the second of its kind in the West African Sub- Region, after Madonna University Okija. By the grace of God this is the second private university to be approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria and officially opened in 2005.
Caritas is the property of the Sisters of Jesus the Saviour, a religious congregation of sisters founded by Very Rev. Fr. Prof. Emmanuel M. P. Edeh Cssp.
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