Organizational In-House Policy and Journalists’ Professional Duties. A Study of Radio Nigeria Network Centre, Jos, Plateau State.

Organizational In-House Policy and Journalists’ Professional Duties. A Study of Radio Nigeria Network Centre, Jos, Plateau State.

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CHAPTER ONE

                                                         INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Every media organization, irrespective of the type and pattern of ownership has an editorial policy which defines the mission and vision of such organization. It spells out the philosophy on which media outfits operate. It also spells out to journalists, what to cover, how to cover it, and how to present it. It also serves as a barometer to measure performance of journalists in a station.Owums (2007, 2008) and Asemah(2011) agree that, every station has a principle that is described as a written or unwritten statement that guide performance of managers, editors, reporters, presenters, and programmers within such a station. It stipulates the acceptable norms of performance which each worker in the station must observe in order to comply with the rules and codes established by the station. It contains the mission statement as an avenue for attaining the purpose of the station. It also contains the house style that determines how programmes are to be produced for the station.

Awolowo (2009) note that, every media outfit has its own operational guidelines and laid down rules and position or stand on some issues, which professional communicators in such organization (the gate-keepers) must adhere to. Some of which according to her include; Policy on Language/Diction-this media policy emphasizes how a media organization chooses words in communicating to the public. The language or choice of words are often determined by location and primary audience of the newspaper, magazine, radio or television station, advert agency or film production outfit. The management of media outfit may choose to present their news items or production using simple, understandable, or everyday English (e.g. for semi-literate people).

Example of such media outfits include: The Punch, Daily Sun, MITV, Galaxy. On the other hand, a news media outfit may decide to use high sounding vocabularies and grammar in presenting their news e.g. The Guardian, Channels Television, Ray power etc (for highly literate audience). This policy also involves the language they will be using. Some radio stations broadcast in pidgin e.g. Wazobia FM, while some in Yoruba and English e.g. Radio Lagos, NTA Channel 10 while some may use either Igbo or Hausa. There are also soft-sell newspapers and magazines published in Yoruba e.g. Alaroye. The editors or presenters of these media outfits ensure that the words used don‟t go beyond the confinement and definition of the organization‟s in-house style on diction and language (Awolowo, 2009).  

Policy on Recruitment- Awolowo (2009) explains that, media houses have policy on the criteria of employment of new staff, that is, who to employ and who not to employ. Apart from educational qualification and experience, some news media outfits don‟t employ somebody that is not a member of a recognized media professional institution like the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Nigeria Institute of

Public Relations (NIPR), while some may decide to employ those that have been to Nigeria Institute of Journalism (NIJ). After employing an individual, the policy of the media house may require that person to be re-trained about in-house policy of reporting, writing and presenting news in the media organization. 

According to Ekerikevwe (2009), brown envelope is common in journalism practice in Nigeria. It is a situation whereby journalists demand for bribe or other forms of gratification before they cover any events or even publish stories from such events. Ekeanyanwu and Obianigwe (2012, p. 516) also observe, “It is no longer news that the Brown Envelope Syndrome (BES) has become an albatross for the 21st century Nigerian journalist. It has been criticized by scholars in the field of mass communication who describe it as a form of inducing writers and editors with financial gratification to influence their writings in favour of the givers”.

This therefore, means that the Press whose primary responsibility it is to blow the whistle on wrong doings may not be able to do so. Unfortunately, according to Adaba(2010), professional bodies like the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and others at the helm of affairs that should ordinarily ensure that practitioners adhere strictly to the ethics of their profession, seem to be also involved. The implication is that real news is watered down while irrelevant issues are overblown because the journalist has been compromised. This also leads to a decline in productivity and professionalism among journalists since they do not honestly and objectively source for news but attend to the highest bidder.

This position is supported by Ekeanyanwu and Obianigwe (2012, p. 517) who argue that “these monetary gifts could pressurize the journalist into doing what the giver wants, and this makes the journalist unable to be objective in his reporting of events and issues involving the people who give such gifts. Thus, the news stories produced are likened to commercial products that have been paid for by the customer which should serve the need to which the product is expected, in favour of the customer”.

              In essence, this paper sought to ascertain journalists‟ perception of the brown envelope syndrome, areas where it manifests, causes of the brown envelope syndrome, its implication for journalism practice and strategies for controlling the menace among Nigerian journalists. It is expected that knowledge generated can be used to enrich the ethical code of journalism practice in Nigeria.

In highlighting the existence of the brown envelope syndrome in journalism, Skjerdal (2010, p. 370) states that the term „brown envelope‟ is applied to denote a corrupt practice which involves transfer of various types of rewards from sources to journalists who are regarded as custodians of the truth. This, according to him, indicates neglect of ethical requirement of the journalism career as well as undermines the primary role of journalism. Referring to the brown envelope syndrome, Okunna (2003, p. 99) describes brown envelop as a monetary bribe handed out to an unethical journalist to pressurize him or her into doing what the bribe giver wants.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

         The media in Africa are mostly characterized by issues of corruption, conflict of editorial policies, biases, moonlighting, sycophancy and influence of editorial policy. In journalism, editorial policy which serves as guiding principle to journalistic activities confronts journalists with multiple values to uphold, some of which conflict with one another leaving journalists in a confused state of servicing two or more conflicting editorial principles. In this regard, Buttler

(2009) say that, editorial policy presents to journalists conflicting values to uphold in the discharge of journalistic functions among which is mentioned above. In this regard, Christopher and Onwuka (2013) lament that; this situation tears apart a journalist who must find a way of impressing both.

       From the foregoing the FRCN-Jos, Plateau State Network Centre has an editorial policy which includes item 2.6 (iv) and item 2.3 (i) as indicated above. In this regard, the two policies conflict each other hence item 2.6 (iv) bestow on the station the responsibility of reward and gratitfication by explaining its policies and intentions to the public thereby making the station a subordinate and mouth piece of government; and item 2.3 (i) which implore journalists to uphold the professional ethics of fairness, balance and factuality in their reportage. It is therefore a thing of worry on how journalists cope with serving the interest of their owner and at the same time meeting up to the professional standard of balance. Also, research findings by Nwamah (2009) reveal that, media outfits make policies to guide journalistic functions and a study by Adeyemi (2013) show that activities of journalists are guided by his in-house policy. With this, it is evident that there is limitation in study on whether the various in-house policies of media outfits demand journalists to satisfy only the owner‟s interest or meeting up to professional ethics or both. This is what this study investigated using FRCN Network Centre, Jos, Plateau State as a case study. Therefore, the study examined how journalists managed conflicting editorial policy and also how the editorial policy of reward and gratitfication affects the professional ethic of balance in selection and rejection of news worthy events by journalists and if government ownership of Radio Nigeria interfere with the editorial decision of journalists in the station.

1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

  This research assessed how journalists manage conflict of editorial values in the discharge of journalistic functions. To achieve this, the specific objectives are:

The broad objective of this paper is to examine the perceptions of the brown envelope syndrome among journalists and its influence on journalism practice in Nigeria. Specifically, this paper sought to:    

1.      Find out what the journalists perceive as brown envelope syndrome in journalism practice in Nigeria.

2.      Investigate journalists‟ views on the areas in which the brown envelope syndrome manifests in journalism practice in Nigeria.

3.      Ascertain journalists' view on the causes of the brown envelope syndrome in journalism practice in

Nigeria.

4.      Find out how the brown envelope syndrome has affected journalism practice in Nigeria.

5.      Determine the role of professional bodies in tackling the problem of brown envelope in journalism practice in Nigeria.

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS

In order to give this paper the required direction, the following research questions were posed for investigation:

1.            What is the journalists‟ perception of brown envelope syndrome in journalism practice in Nigeria?

2.            What areas do journalists perceive the brown envelope syndrome to be manifest in journalism practice in Nigeria?

3.            What do the journalists perceive as the causes of the brown envelope syndrome in journalism practice in Nigeria?

4.            To what extent has the brown envelope syndrome affected journalism practice in Nigeria?

5.             What is the role of professional bodies in journalism in tackling the problem of brown envelope syndrome in journalism practice in Nigeria?

1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

          Editorial policies, as written or unwritten statements, that guide performance of managers, editors, reporters, presenters, programmers within a station which have immense influence to journalistic functions. It stipulates the acceptable norms of performance which each worker in the station must observe in order to comply with the rules and codes established by the station. It contains the mission statement as an avenue for attaining the purpose of the station. It also contains the house style that determines how programmes are to be produced for the station. But Buttler (2009) points out that, editorial policy confronts journalists with two or more conflicting editorial principles to uphold in the discharge of their duties among which include; 1) Truth versus Loyalty 2) Individual versus Community 3) Short term versus Long term and 4) Justice versus Mercy. For this reason therefore, a study of this nature will be of immense importance because it will unravel the strategies which journalists employ in adhering to conflicting editorial principles and its implication on professional tenet of objectivity in journalism. 

        Also, as the literature show, editorial policy of media houses presents journalists with two or more conflicting values to uphold, this study adds to knowledge on how journalists cope with such conflicting values and the challenges attached in abiding by the editorial value of serving ownership interest in the discharge of journalistic functions. 

        The findings and recommendations of this study would be found useful to media organizations as it will make them understand the hazards of their laid down principles as faced by their employees. The study would also serve as a mirror to practicing journalists to see clearly where they need to make adjustments so as to carry out their social responsibility functions better without compromise

The study further contributes to the existing literature on this topic as it would give researchers opportunity to read and make reference to when discussing issues concerning conflict of editorial values in journalism. Also the study points out positive direction for a vibrant and professionally efficient press, which will translate to a very high image for the media with unequivocal positive economic implications. 

      The study will also help prepare ethical minds amongst students of Mass Communication and journalism in order to reduce unprofessional conducts in journalism practice. Again, the study will propel further research on how constraints on journalistic practice could be reduced to the barest minimum or better still be eliminated where possible. 

1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY

       This study critically examined policies in Nigeria media industry with the editorial policy of FRCN Network Centre Jos. Although the document contains many policies, this work focuses on item 2.6 (iv) which provides thus; “it is the responsibility of Radio Nigeria to explain to the public reward and gratitfication, the intention for the policy, the implications of the policy as well as the expected roles of the public” and also item  (i) which provides that, “Radio Nigeria shall always ensure that all reports, comments and programmes are fair, balanced and factual”. The reason is to investigate the strategies used by journalists in FRCN Jos in dealing with conflicting editorial values in the discharge of their duties and to know if conflicting editorial principles affects the professional tenet of objectivity.

1.7 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY

        The concentration of this study on government owned broadcast media form an impediment to why the result cannot be generalized across all forms of media and ownership type (the state, higher institutions and religious organizations owned media outfits). Also, the study was unable to establish whether journalists in FRCN Jos had access to the operational guideline of the

station. 

                    1.8   DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS                

The following key terms; 

(1)   Conflict of interest- This is a clash of personal values with professional callings or demands.

(2)   In-house policy- In relation to this study, this means the editorial policy of a media outfit which can be written or unwritten principles defined by media owners and these differs from one media organization to the other. 

(3)   Journalistic activity-As regards to this study, this term means, news reportage, news editing, and presentation.

(4)   Media ownership-This refers to an individual, group of people or government that set up a newspaper, magazine, radio or television station for a purpose and oversee its activities and demands. 

(5)   Professionalism-This is a behavior and good attitude towards ones work. In regard to this study this, involves (i) Fairness (ii) Balance (iii) Refusal of bribery (iv) Refusal of gifts (v) Non-Partisanship and (vi) editorial independence


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