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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 problems of rural reporting in Nigeria as well as make recommendations for future actions and conclusion.
The term “mass media” as used in this work include both print and electronic media. Some of the vital roles which the mass media can play in rural information system include:
1.1 Education: Education of the audience is an important role the mass media can play in rural information system. There is high level of illiteracy and low level of education among the populace in our rural communities. The mass media through publications in the newspapers and magazines, as well as programmes in the radio and television can educate the illiterate rural masses on issues of political, economic and social importance in nation-building. The following are some of the examples:
The mass media can assist the federal government to bring rural development at the grassroots through proper and effective dissemination of information. It is difficult to think of any national objectives which can be pursued effectively, let alone achieve, without adequate information and communication support. This is particularly true of those national objectives which are concerned with making changes in human values, attitudes, behaviour patterns, cognitive skills, productive capabilities, life styles, life quality, etc.. Rural development, properly conceived, is one such objective.
Without proper information and education, the consciousness of the people will remain at a level that can hardly spur them to action. An awakened conscious is a liberating force. And what is liberation? It is simply the culmination in the struggle for spiritual, physical and mental emancipation from physical and structural violence.
What the mass media do in rural development is to emphasize the main and social input without which the best projects cannot take off. A well informed populace is an asset to rural development and good governance which ensure political stability and national integration.
Through songs and dances, festivals, arts, etc. the mass media, especially the electronic media can assist the rural populace to fight against tension, streets desolation, desperation and boredom arising form poverty and hardship. The entertainment offered on the broadcasting media helps to bring the rural populace to be at par with their urban counterparts and this gives them a sense of belonging in the society by negating the effects of rural poverty and hardship. However, care should be exercised in choosing programmes aimed at the entertainment of the rural populace, so as not to negate the very national objectives being targeted in broadcasting. The portrayal of crime, violence and sex on television for their entertainment values as in many foreign or urban films, is not appropriate for rural children and the youth, if not offensive to many rural adults who still believe in the traditional social values.
1.4 Audience Penetration
The mass media is very useful in audience penetration. It can deliver message in both national and local languages and, therefore capable of penetrating both the literate and illiterate segments of the rural population. The easiest way the government can penetrate the rural populace in terms of effective mobilization for national rural development and transformation is through the mass media, especially the electronic media such as radio and television.
Therefore, mass media can play a vital role in rural information system by maintaining effective and efficient delivery of information and messages especially in the area of improvement of rural life-quality and of the total rural human situation.