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Abstract

The main purpose of this work is to Evaluation of Adherence of Journalists on the Codes of Journalism Practice in Enugu State. Social responsibility and Socialization theories served as the theoretical framework of the study. A census of 210 registered journalists in Enugu State was studied. The researcher adopted a survey method using questionnaires as instrument for data collection. This study asked among other questions; to what extent do the practice of Enugu based journalists corresponds with the Nigerian code for professional journalism practice in Nigeria. The findings of the study revealed that 54.8% is the awareness, and the knowledge level was not quite above the average level and all of the Nigerian codes for professional journalism were adhered to expect that of the code for Discrimination. it was recommended that journalists should consider discrimination (balance and fairness) as one of the key codes for journalism profession and adhere to it.

Key words: Media, Journalism, Practice, Code, Ethics

INTRODUCTION

Over the years, professional journalism practice has attracted different debates from different quarters on what true professionalism should be. Nolan (2008) notes that the debate about professionalism in journalism practice may appear rather bewildering but it has remained the central issue of debate within and outside the academia. The debate itself rests on the series of contradictory problems and different assumptions about professionalism in journalism practice.

The difference in assumption on the issue of professionalism may not be unconnected to the fact that journalism practice houses both trained and untrained personnel’s’. In the words of Wilson (2011), journalism as widely practiced profession in the modern world has attracted both trained and untrained hands, which mingle at the task of reporting events in the society. For this singular reason Wilson noted that the journalism   profession has fallen into doubts of its authenticity as a profession

In regards to the fallen authenticity of the journalism profession in the views of the public eye, Boyd-Barrett (2010) argues that this shortcoming in journalism “could weaken the possibility of public recognition of the occupation as a profession, or indeed as an occupation of high status. A recent survey of radio journalist working in the two radio stations in Enugu Nigeria shows that only 25% of the journalists possessed degrees or diplomas in Journalism/Mass Communication at initial employment.

The practice of professional journalism has been shaped and reshaped, interpreted and misinterpreted, defined and explained by many. As a result of the diversity in the practice of journalism in Nigeria, professionalism in journalism has been affected to a very large extent, and as such, journalism practice in Nigeria has raised a lot of questions as to the proprietary of referring to it as a profession. In respect to journalism as a profession, Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) has set out to squarely preserve professionals in the field of journalism in Nigeria (NUJ, 2011). The professionals in this case are those who have acquired the nitty-gritty of the profession and are fully aware of the code of conducts that govern the affairs of those involved in the profession.

The Nigeria Media System had to undergo various changes, surmounted different obstacles and challenges to get to where it is today and set a standard of professionalism in journalism practice. As a result of the afore mentioned under gone situations, Nigeria Media System has as  much as possible aimed and worked towards Maintaining a close to perfect standard system.

However, another issue that led to the emergence of professional journalism practice in Nigeria is the fact that reports on the happenings around us far supersede the manifest content of traditional mass media. This simply means that most events occur without being reported either because there is no conventional journalist on site or none assigned to cover such beat.  Burkholder (2010) .

Absence of conventional journalist not only affects professionalism in journalism practice but has created a room for poor production of information to the public. According to Ekpu( 1982,p.7) “some of the stories published in the media looked “more like the products of a the fertile imagination of a hack writers from the party headquarters than stories hammered out in a modern newsroom”. Unfortunately, sometimes there is usually not the opportunity for journalist to capture news. Like in case of the London underground bombed on July 7, 2005, photos of the event were published on websites and blogs, and made their way to the mainstream media. It was the people with camera cell phones that captured the images, not reporters. That is say that more often than not, when major news happens and there is no conventional journalist around to report it the output of the report possibly comes out as mess. By way of interviews and records of the event, reporters are able to re-create it for the morning paper.

Journalism, like other professions, has direct impact on the citizenry and the society at large. Practitioners are expected to be guided by a code of conduct which members are expected to comply with strictly, and to be enforced by a body acceptable to all the stakeholders as aforementioned in the previous fourth paragraph. Journalist   seemed to have been found wanting both in expertise and credibility. These inadequacies, according to Uyo (1982, p.8) “emanate from lack of professionalism on the part of Nigerian Journalists”.

The lack of professionalism has still remained a pressing issue in journalism practice in Nigeria despite the modification done to create room for a change. Public criticism of Nigeria tends to centre on those who work in these media, their skills and training, their values, attitudes and degree of social responsibility. Such criticism was greatest between 1978 and 1983 when media practitioners turned themselves into putty in the hands of second Republic Politicians. Journalist were hired and fired like casual laborers; editorial seats, like musical chairs, rotated mostly among party loyalists. So debased did journalism become that politicians themselves, concerned media practitioners and educators, as well as lay men and women expressed concern about the journalism practice in Nigeria and the integrity of the entire profession.

The loose definition of the criteria for membership has made the profession an all-comers-affair. Also, the absence of a prescribed qualifying test has made it difficult to moderate the standard of journalism practice in Nigeria .Ugboajah(1983) opined that the trouble could be that journalism itself is an indeterminate occupation ,which is inadequately professionalized.

To restore credibility to the profession, the gap between school curricula and journalism practice must be bridged. A revisit to the existing code of conduct to explicitly state those who can practice journalism in Nigeria is necessary. Also, an acceptable remuneration package comparable with other professions must be worked out .In what Benneth and Hokenstad (1976, p.24) described as the “first systematic statement regarding the criteria for a profession”. Flexner (1915, p.87) sets out six distinctive criteria of a profession which include that a profession is (1) based on intellectual activity, (2) requires from its members the possession of a considerable amount of knowledge and learning, (3) has definite and practical purposes, (4) has certain techniques which can be communicated, (5) has an effective self-organization and (6) motivated by a desire to work for the welfare of society.

It is noteworthy that the integrity of the media has hardly ever been on the line when issues of national importance are involved .challenges come mainly when issues revolving around individuals or group and, at that point, the media, in itself entirely, is overwhelmingly castigated over the perceived offence or professional misconduct of few practitioners.

It is as a result of perceived offence and misconduct that every profession is governed by ethics and code of conduct .The early and the nationalist press was not governed by any formal ethics and code of conduct. For example, editorial policies didn’t exist, from the four paged bilingual Iwe Iroyin to paged Daily times. On ethics and code of conduct in early Nigeria journalism practice, Udoakah  and Nnadi (2007) opined that there was no regulation in the profession and anything went through. This accounts for one of the reasons why up on until today, journalism in Nigeria is still not being seen as a profession but rather as an all-comers affair.

It can’t be disputed that in connection with some of the reasons why journalism practice is still viewed as all-comers affair, Low literacy rate contributes to a large degree of journalism inefficacy and also to a low standard of professional journalistic standard performance. Journalism profession has suffered serious setbacks in its developmental process in Nigeria because: Nigeria has not given priority to degree programs Journalism. Rather graduates from other discipline such as international relations, political science, Accounting, Sociology and English etc. are given on- the- job training in Professional journalism and these non-professionals do the cause damage to the profession because they lack the basic foundations of the profession.

In regards to the above, Gboyega (1989) frowned at the inability of the of the very many press barons in Nigeria to make deliberate efforts to transform journalism in the country to an enviable profession that can compete favorably in its organizational structure , effectiveness and thoroughness and Virility as in other professions like legal, Engineering and banking professions. This works sought to evaluate adherence of journalists on the codes of journalism practice in Enugu state.

 

 

Statement of the Problem

Professional journalism practice in Nigeria seems to be the problem in Nigeria today.  It is no longer news that our journalist are continuously been criticized for lack of professionalism in our society today. In as much is the criticism may be  wrong, some  internal and external factors, such as financial problems, influence of media ownership, political instability, rapid advancement of technology in the world,  bribery(brown envelope syndrome), illiteracy level and inadequate job security Pose as big threats and challenge to the practice of professional journalism practice and further complicates the issue.

Not only has the afore mentioned factors posed as a threat to journalism, but studies (Adaja, 2012: Oso, 2012) have shown that the absence of a prescribed qualified test has made it difficult to moderate the standard of journalism practice in Nigeria. The codes of conducts established by journalist at different levels exist to ensure professionalism and reduce the problem of the profession to a minimum level.  Hence, this study sought to evaluate how journalists in Enugu are fully aware and how they adhere to the codes of ethics for professional journalism practice in their practice of journalism in Enugu State.

Objective of the study

This study sought to:

  1. Find out the extent to which journalists in Enugu state are aware of the codes              for professional journalism practice in Nigeria.
  2. Ascertain the knowledge level of journalists on the Nigerian codes for professional journalism practice
  3. Identify the major Nigeria codes for professional journalism practice adhered to by journalists in Enugu State
  4. Evaluate the extent to which the practice of Enugu based journalist corresponds to the codes for professional journalism practice in Nigeria

Research Question

The research work will be guided by the following question.

  1. To what extent are journalists in Enugu state aware of the Nigerian codes for            professional journalism practice?
  2. What is the knowledge level on the Nigerian code for professional journalism practice?
  3. Which of the major Nigerian codes for professional journalism practice adhered by journalist in Enugu state?
  4. To what extent do the practice of Enugu based journalist corresponds to the code for professional journalism practice in Nigeria?

Literature review

Professionalism and Journalism: The Nigeria Experience

It is pertinent to note that Nigerian Journalism took off much earlier than the proclamation in angulations of the Nigerian nation. Evidently, Nigerian Journalism was not guided at inception by any law or regulations. Precisely, there was none in place to define the requirements, composition and operations of the players in the industry. Nigerian Journalism was dominated, at the beginning, by people drawn from several pools.

According to Agbaje, “practitioners included the commercially frustrated local elites driven out of business by unfair competition from European monopolists, the unemployed, those sacked from jobs in ailing European firms, drop outs from other professions, etc.”(Agbaje, 1992, p. 42).

The above shows that the forerunners of the profession, apart from the fact that they lacked the basic educational prerequisites, did not know or even see the job as a profession. Early practitioners went into the profession either to make ends meet or to obtain a meal ticket. This perception continued, even, after independence in 1960.

History has it that, at an interview section between students of the International Press Institute (IPI) in Lagos and the Director of the Institute, Tom Hopkins, during the opening ceremony of the center by President Nnamidi Azikwe in 1964, a student told the Director that: You are just trying to make us feel good about being Journalists as though we had an important career before us. Don’t you realize that all of us here are the throw-outs? And outcasts from other jobs. (Barton, 1979: 25).Thus, obviously, the early group of Journalists that attended formal School of Journalism equally harbored the notion that Journalism was not a profession. This affected their output as well as their disposition and self-estimation among their colleagues in other professions New Media and Mass Communication www.iiste.orgISSN 2224-3267 (Paper) ISSN 2224-3275 (Online) Vol 5, 201218.

Okunna (1995, states that the Nigerian society is filled with all sorts of ethical maladies that have defiled all cures over the years. She attributes the major cause directly or indirectly to the all-encompassing problem of materialism. Under this umbrella of materialism Okunna (1995) itemized bribery and corruption, kickback, ten per cent, kola, settlement, the Nigerian factor.

Duyile (1988).  States that while the journalist and indeed any person may react to the social conditions of his environment and develop the urge to join the bandwagon, there is a natural law that sometimes provides a constant check on his movement, his willingness to share the pollution and participate. The law spells the “dos and don’ts” of the club to which he belongs and from where he practices his profession. Traditionally, even in the Western world, Journalists learned or acquired their skills through on-the-job-training, the method changed in the early 20thCentury when the first school of Journalism in the United States was established at the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1908. And, a bequest from Joseph Pulitzer led to the creation of a graduate school of Journalism at Columbia University, New York City in 1912 (Castro, 2009).History has it that, Journalism in the developed world started through “apprenticeship method” – a system of learning the skills of a craft or trade from experts in the field by working with them for a period of time. The on-the-job-training method continued un abused in most of the developed nations until the early 20thCentury when formal Journalism Schools were established for the training of would be Journalists.

Journalism Practice in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges

Although, Nigerian Journalists most often lay claim to the observance of the professional tenets of objectivity, neutrality, impartiality, and the rest, it is however doubtful whether it could be said that Nigerian Journalists practice and belong to a profession in the real sense of it. Momoh (2005:11) opines that: A profession is qualified to be one only when it can be identified by the body of knowledge to be imbibed by those who would be its members, a membership register, a code of conduct that would find its monitors, a disciplinary body that would enforce the code.

Moonlighting according to Okunna (1995) is for different reasons but, particularly to make ends meet, journalists sometimes take two jobs, often working for competing employers. This leads to divided loyalty and jeopardizes the interest of the journalist and that of employers. It could also lead to lack of objectivity because when one is working at two places, one wouldn’t want to write anything that could affect the interest of both. Contributing in the same vein other unethical problems that plague the Nigerian society and its media according to her are sycophancy, nepotism, squander mania, character assassination, pressures, brown envelope, moonlighting etc.

Evaluating the Nigerian Journalism practice, as presently constituted, with the above requirements, one would  agree with the view expressed by Adaja (2011) that, the Nigerian Media cannot be fully referred to as a profession. Although, the Nigerian Union of Journalists parades a Code of Conduct in which in its Article I (i) referred to the Union as professional body as well as a trade union (Nnameka et al, 1989, p.276). The Code, however, failed to state or identifies the body of knowledge to be imbibed by its members. Again, the membership provision was so loose that anybody that has anything to do with media organization can call him/herself a Journalist. The provision provides for Public Relations Officers/Practitioners, those who are employed as editorial staff, those who had completed a probationary period of 12months, etc. to be called Journalists, without stating any minimum qualifications. Also, no acceptable body to all the stakeholders was created or established to regulate the practice of Journalism and enforce its rules and regulation in Nigeria has done in other advanced countries of the world. For example, in 1952, Britain established the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

The body was charged with the task of securing minimum standards for journalism practitioners. The body, subsequently, introduced qualifying examination, the proficiency test, as a measure of control and career advancement. According to Boyd – Barret (1980, p.323): The purpose of the proficiency test was to indicate the completion of training during the apprenticeship period, and thus to qualify the holder of a proficiency certificate for advancement to the status of senior journalist and its associated salary advantages.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) provides that candidates must have passed four basic subjects of English language, law, public administration and shorthand before admitting such candidates for the proficiency test. Although, emphasis was placed on apprenticeship; the on- the- job-training was designed to lead to some visible goals inform of passing an examination. At the same time, the apprenticeship was expected to last for 30 months, so as to regulate the practice of journalism in the land. This is very much unlike the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) provision of 12months and without any qualifying examination (Nnaemeka, 1989).

Again, the practice of journalism in Nigeria has been characterized by flaws that had prevented it from being referred to as a profession. At inception, the Nigerian media space was occupied by practitioners who neither saw themselves as professionals nor made professionalism their watchword. The first newspaper in Nigeria, Iwe Iroyin funAwon Ara Egba ati Yoruba, was established by Rev. Henry Townsend who never had the opportunity of attending a school of Journalism. He never belonged or subscribed to any known body of knowledge and never practiced journalism. The closest experience he had was that he “watched” his brother established a newspaper in one of the British Colonies before coming to Nigeria. Evidently, the foundation of journalism in Nigeria was erected on the wrong footing. And, if the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do(Ps. 11:3).New Media and Mass Communication www.iiste.orgISSN 2224-3267 (Paper) ISSN 2224-3275 (Online) Volume 5, 201219

It is instructive to note that the Nigerian Journalists have been in perpetual fluid drifting from neutrality to partisan politics both in the period preceding independence and after. Before independence, Nigerian journalism landscape was polarized along ownership structure.

Although, Nigerian journalists worked together to fight a common enemy, the colonial master, in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, the creation of the three regions brought about ownership/party loyalty and affiliation. Journalists and media organizations jettisoned their professional tenets of neutrality, objectivity, impartiality, etc., and took on the garb of partisan politics. Journalists shifted allegiance to their owners, regions as well as the dominant party or government of the region. Media organizations and Journalists became divided among the three major parties – the NPC, NCNC and AG. Journalists, thus, became politically– minded and politically – partisan to the extent that all the allusions professional standards were consigned into the dustbin.

Again, the liberalization and commercialization policy of the federal government of Nigeria of the 1980s and1990s threw a lot of challenges to the professional standards of journalism practice in Nigeria. The policy made all forms of news coverage to be evaluated from the commercial point of view. The impact of the policy became noticeable on journalists’ sense of news judgment, especially in the broadcast media. News events not sponsored were hardly aired.

According to Oso (2012): The Journalist is not allowed the autonomy and detachment required for the practice of his trade. His professional judgment has been compromised. The sale of news is killing professionalism in Nigerian Broadcast journalism. Of a truth, commercialization of broadcasting has contributed to the dead of serious journalism in Nigerian Broadcasting. The commercialization phenomenon posed a lot of challenges to the credibility of the news stories reported by Journalists because stories of events are usually arranged to suit their sponsors. Usually, the stories “add nothing tangible to the quality of life of the people” and “there is nothing journalistically newsworthy about them” (Oso, 2012).

Furthermore, the issue of role conflict (that is dual roles) has seriously affected the output of the average Nigerian Journalist. The oscillation between the professional requirements of objectivity, neutrality, impartiality, etc., and the societal norms and values, especially the social responsibility theory, has made journalism in Nigeria to be in a perpetual state of flux. Journalists usually engage in a “constant war of independence” (i.e. between two worlds of “patriotic journalism (perspective)” and “professional Journalism (perspective)”. This “crisis of identity” has marred the integrity and credibility of journalism.

According to Tsfaty and Libio. (2003) as cited by Zandberg and Neiger (2005). Journalist’s identities are not fixed and clear but fluid and unstable, and we see journalists as neither members of the professional community nor members of the national – hegemonic community – but as moving constantly between them.

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