ASSESSMENT OF AUDIENCE KNOWLEDGE AND UTILIZATION OF NEWSPAPER EDITORIALS IN SOUTH-SOUTH NIGERIA

ABSTRACT
The mass media through information gathering and dissemination do shape public opinion and contribute to efforts at attaining an enlightened citizenry which is one of the indices of a developed society. The running of newspaper editorials is one crucial way the media carry out their functions. The newspaper editorial is all-embracing, being both a news story, an interpretative piece and the opinion of the newspaper meant to educate and guide the public on topical issues. But unlike news stories, sports reports and some other newspaper contents, one hardly hears of reference being made to the editorial among newspaper readers. Knowing that the readership of a work is as important as the content of the work, this study set out to determine the extent of audience readership and acceptance of newspaper editorials in South-South Nigeria. The aim is to popularize the newspaper editorial and increase its readership among public members. With the use of a questionnaire, the study surveyed 372 respondents purposively selected from Port Harcourt, Asaba and Benin City to represent the newspaper audience in the South-South zone. The study found that only a few people know about and do read the editorials of newspapers in the zone even though the extent of newspaper readership is generally high in the area. The study, among other things, recommends that both newspaper houses and the relevant government agencies should engage in vigorous periodic sensitization programmes to raise public awareness about the editorial and that newspapers should do more to make the editorial page more catchy to newspaper readers through the use of colours and other designs.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title Page
Table of Contents
List of Tables
Abstract

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1       Background of the Study
1.2       Statement of the Problem
1.3       Objectives of the Study
1.4       Research Questions
1.5       Significance of the Study
1.6       Scope of the Study
1.7       Operational Definition of Terms
            References

CHAPTER TWO:  LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1       The Origin and Concept of Newspapering
2.2       Evolution of the Editorial
2.3       The Editorial in a Newspaper
2.4       The Editorial Page: Structure and Features
2.5       Audience Element in the Communication Process
2.6       Empirical Framework
2.7       Theoretical Framework
            References

CHAPTER THREE:  METHODOLOGY
3.1       Research Design
3.2       Population of Study
3.3       Sample Size
3.4       Sampling Technique
3.5       Instruments for Data Collection
3.6       Techniques for Data Collection
3.7       Validity of Instruments
3.8       Reliability of Instruments
3.9       Technique for Data Presentation and Analysis
            References

CHAPTER FOUR: DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
4.1       Data Presentation and Analysis
4.2       Discussion of Findings
            References

CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1       Summary
5.2       Conclusion
5.3       Recommendations
5.4       Limitations of Study
5.5       Suggestions for further Studies
            BIBLIOGRAPHY
            APPENDIX

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study
Defleur and Dennis, cited in Ndolo (2005, p. 18) described mass communication as the process which involves the dissemination of information by professional communicators to large and diverse audiences continuously through certain channels of reaching mass audiences with a view to influencing them in a variety of ways. Ndolo (2005, pp.18-19) then explains that the channels (called the mass media or media) are majorly newspapers, magazines, books (print), radio, television, cable (broadcasting), records and tapes, VCDs, DVDs (recordings), and motion pictures (film).

It is instructive, however, to note that the Internet and other new communication "technologies such as mobile phones, ipads, laptops, digital cameras, etc" which are regarded as the new media, being off-shoots of the modern information and communication technologies (ICTs), have greatly transformed the mass media family - making it more dynamic and pervasive; the mass media are used to connect large audiences, send or receive information and create or attract new business opportunities (Ezeah, Ozibo & Hassan, 2013, pp. 152-153). The media, as a social institution, are considered very powerful because they "deal with public information and knowledge, and whoever controls the terrain of information has significant control and advantage over others" (Ukonu, 2013, p. 12).


Journalism which is the hallmark of media business began with straight-news reporting wherein a reporter merely reports the facts and is not expected to inject his opinion or give interpretation to the news story. But as society grew and became more complex, there arose the need for the media to interpret stories, analysing and pointing out their implications to society in order for the audience, especially the average audience, to have a better understanding of issues

reported in the media. Ekwelie (cited in Ohaja, 2005, p. ix) holds this view when he argues that

mere reporting of facts (straight-news repoprting) is no longer the vogue, but news interpretation.

He explains that with the "sprouting of global responsibilities and the growing complexity of the

domestic scene, the man in the street could no longer grasp the import of new developments

without a guiding light. That light came in the form of news interpretation". Nwabueze (2009, p.

82) puts it this way:

As the society advanced and became more complex, the public became more curious to understand the complex nature of happenings in their immediate and larger environment. Routine straight news report which characterized early journalism practice could no longer satisfy the quest for an understanding of the complex nature of news and the interwoven and interactional relationship between or among happenings in the society, there arose the notion that mass media content should explain the significance of news events reported in the media.

Communication scholars and writers like Curtis MacDougall (1963, pp. 16-17), Herbert

Bayard Swope (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Op-ed) and Joseph Pulitzer (cited in Okoro and Agbo,

2003, p. 125) were some other proponents of interpretative and opinionated pieces. Several kinds

of interpretative and opinionated writings have therefore emerged in the media. They include

features, columns, articles, editorials and essays. But among these genres of journalistic or media

writings, the editorial stands out. This is because the editorial does not only contain news report;

it also interprets the news and further guides the reader through the (often well-informed)

opinion of the newspaper embedded in it.

The editorial can be defined as a piece of writing in a mass medium, especially a newspaper,

which gives the opinion of the medium on a topical issue through a critical interpretation and

analysis of the issue. The editorial is so crucial in media work that although it is essentially a newspaper content, both radio and television which are broadcast media, do attempt to run it

though in the form of news commentaries, news analysis, or news talk (Ossai, 2002, p. 222).

Orewere (cited in Asemah, 2011, p. 47) sees editorial writing as the correlation function of the

media which has to do with:

... going beyond mere gathering and distribution of information to include reasoned interpretation of what is given out as news about the environment, including at times, the prescription for conduct in reactions to the events reported. This is what is often referred to as editorial or an attempt to present "news behind the news" such as going beyond facts to situate the events. This is also called news analysis or news communication which of course could accommodate some forms of propaganda.


Adamu also stressed the imperativeness of "correlation, where they (the media) attempt to

interpret what happen in the society" (2013, p. 3).        The ultimate aim of these efforts is the

intellectual empowerment of the citizenry through news stories and opinionated pieces.

Incidentally, the newspaper as a print medium of mass communication has greatly impacted

society since its emergence  as a social institution centuries  ago.  In spite of the  glamour

associated  with   radio   and  television   (broadcast   media),   the  newspaper   still   attracts   a

considerable number of audience members because of the edge it has (report permanence and

details) over the former whose reports are transient and brief and therefore "utterly inadequate to

keep a citizen informed" (Henry , 1981, p.135). Thus, the newspaper has the respect of many a

people and Ukonu (2013, p. 14) says the "editorials are foremost in giving newspaper this pride

of place in society". Necessity is, therefore, laid on the newspaper, and indeed the mass media, to

run editorials regularly. It is in acknowledgement of this obligation to contribute their quota to

societal  development  through  news  reporting/interpretation  and  the  influencing  of  public.....

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