The article examined rural reporting in Nigeria and discovered that the only thing that constitute news for reporters in the country is only when a strange thing negative happens in the rural areas. For example, when there is ritual sacrifice, community clashes, rape, murder, etc.. The press hardly reports any good news about the rural communities in Nigeria. For example, when there is peace, harmony and self-efforts at rural development undertaken by the initiative of the rural community leaders, it is hardly given attention by the press reporters in Nigeria. Consequently, rural poverty continues to increase unabated but the Nigerian press reporters could not effectively expose the deplorable conditions under which the rural dwellers live in. The bias of the reporters is in favour of the urban dwellers who are adjudged to be learned, enlightened and understand the meaning and importance of news. The reporters argue that if the news reported upon is not essentially urban oriented, the patronage especially in the print-media would be very low. The study concluded by observing that the trend should be reversed immediately. In fact the news reporters in Nigeria should show more patriotism in the coverage of events in the rural areas. This is the only way government could know and understand the plights of the rural dwellers for effective public policy-making to reduce the present level of rural poverty and reverse the current rise in rural-urban migration in the country.
Despite their vaunted objectivity and self-acclaimed commitment to fairness, it can be argued that the Nigerian mass media has over the years, solely neglected the rural areas. The perspective of the Nigeria mass media was, and continues to be (despite some progress), strictly urban. The media reports and writes from the standpoint of an urban dweller’s world. The ills of the rural areas, difficulties of life there, their burning sense of grievance, are seldom seriously conveyed. Indeed, over ninety-five percent (95%) of the Nigerian mass media, particularly the print media, can be referred to as the urban press-après that repeatedly if unconsciously, reflects the bias, the paternalism and the indifference of the typical urban dweller.
This bias manifests itself in one or two forms: neglect of the majority and distortion of news about the rural populace. While the former refers to neglect of rural efforts, aspirations and overall existence, the latter refers to a situation whereby the issues, events or efforts of our rural areas, whenever reported, are inaccurately and sometimes carelessly reported in the media. In most cases, this inaccuracy or distortion stems from the typical Nigerian journalist’s misguided belief that since majority of our rural populace are illiterate, all of them cannot understand whatever was being said.
Talking about neglect of the rural areas by the Nigeria mass media, the temptation is to pass off such neglect as a result of prejudice, on the part of reporters and editors — unconscious, unintended prejudice nonetheless. To a certain extent, such an argument is valid. However, a more important reason for the neglect stems from the structure of Nigeria journalism — from the way the mass media has explicitly or implicitly defined who they are and what journalism in Nigeria is all about.
Arguably, most media houses in the country today believe that since they are situated in the urban areas, their primary task is to satisfy their urban colleagues, who, after all, are mostly those who attend to the media and, of course advertise in the papers and magazines or buy up available air time to slot in their commercials. Perhaps they are right to adopt this stance of concentrating on the urban areas, even if the journalists are ‘socialists’ at heart.
It is easy to see, therefore, that the most important structural point here concerns the way in which the news media has defined who they are specifically, who reports the news. Journalism in Nigeria has for long been under the control of urban minds and it can be maintained that most of our newsrooms have not yet had reporters who can, and are wiling to, bring the perspectives, values and moves needed to broaden coverage.
Structurally, then, the Nigeria mass media has, largely been without the adequate first hand knowledge needed to help them improve coverage of the rural area. Most of the reporters live in the cities and are more likely to notice things that are happening within their vicinity rather than the problems, issues and developmental efforts of our rural populace. Thus, a conflict over the quality of secondary school education in a remote rural location. For instance, such conflict in Abuja is more likely to receive ongoing news and features coverage by media houses across the nation while a similar conflict in, say, Obimo Ikwoka village in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu state will be very likely to receive a single feature story in a paper like the Guardian. In the same vein, the coverage of a disease striking down Enugu residents, with ten people dying daily is more likely to get sustained national attention than an epidemic of measles at Umunebo village in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra state which may have killed more people than the disease in Enugu before it begins to be noticed by our urban based media houses.
The other reason for the neglect of the rural populace by the media over the years is as the first, but it is no less significant. Nigeria journalists, unfortunately, define news in such a way that the rural dwellers are almost automatically excluded. Unless they happen to be involved in communal clashes, or are protesting against the confiscation of their farmlands by the government without adequate compensation; this structural definition limits coverage to that which entails a sort of conflict or unusualness. What is done by people who are defined as “significant”.
The central focus of this paper is how to get the Nigerian mass media to play more vital and important role in rural information system in the country. To tackle this arduous task, we shall first examine some of the vital roles which the mass media can play in rural information system such as educating, informing, entertaining, audience-penetration, efficiency and effectiveness of message (or information) delivery and unification of the rural
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