The Role of Mass Media in Rural Information System in Nigeria

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

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-apres 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. …