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Influence of Newspaper in Shaping Local Government Policies

Influence of Newspaper in Shaping Local Government Policies; a Case Study of Awka North

Literature Review

When Thomas Tefterson, one of the greatest American president told a gathering of his country men that “I prefer a society with newspaper (media) but without government to that which has a government without the media”. They thought he has gone crazy. But the man, whose tenure was very successful largely because of his effective utilization of the media.

He said, “A dispute and tyrants who ignore the press and make peaceful change impossible, soon make violent change inevitable. Activities of the media have suggested that government could only ignore them to their detriment and peril.

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Newspaper through which information is disseminated to the public has become so widely accepted and influential that no government indeed can ever ignore it. What it means is that every government has to rely on the media whose interacts with the populace to feel the pulse of those it governance. It is also through the newspaper as one of channels of media that majority of the people get to know of the happenings around them and contribute positively to the policies of the government.

When in the 1950s, African – Americas otherwise known as Black American prostates vehemently  against racial segregation, the world’s attention became focused on the united states of America. The editorial comments from newspaper and magazine all over the world forced the America government to introduce far reaching changes. As Curtis D.Mac- Doughall (1953) points out.

The entire world knew from news report and pictures of the violence connected with attempts to implement the United States Supreme Court decision that racial segregation must end.

In Nigeria, media as a whole has been held responsible for the mess in the second republic. There was due to the opinion that the media joined the shagari government in moving from the path of rectitude. What it means is that the media failed to influence positively the activities of the government. Many Nigerian not only gave the media a knock for the inaptitude and unabashed biasness but blamed them for the December 31st, 1983 coup plotted by Buhari.

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The regime of Buhari tried to emasculate the press with the defunct decrees 4 of 1984, but soon found out that the media has become so powerful and influential that gagging it particularly in Nigeria was difficult.

In Edo state precisely Benin earlier this year Governor Oshomole verbally assaulted the wife of a police man whose husband died telling her to go and die too”. The media took it upon themselves and criticized the action in many editorials prompting the state governor to apologize and compensated her.

Moreover, through the newspaper campaign and their bringing to light of all in-human and criminal sets perpetuated by past administrations, the government of Obasanjo, has instituted different probe panels especially the human Right Investigation panel headed by Chukwudifu Oputa, a re-nowed retired judge of the supreme court, majority of Nigerians turn to the Oputa Human Rights panel to bring murderers of slain journalist, Mr. Dele Giwa to book. Before he was bombed via a letter bomb on Sunday 19 October 1986, he was believed to be working on among other sensitive stories, a matter allegedly involving suspect Gloria Okon and her connection with Mrs. Miriam Babangida, with the former depute.

Government officials always have something to hide and they may not have good intentions in formulating and implementing policies for the people. That is why the media especially newspaper has to fight for the people by digging for those hidden facts, and insists on the government following the set out path of good governance. Back to Cambell and Wolsley who said “responsible news media fights hard for clean city government”

Recognizing the influence that the media exert on government, many officials in both their private and public statement, have often acknowledge the indispensability of the newspaper in shaping government policies. Prerre Salinger, who was secretary to late president John F. Kennedy, on emphasizing the importance of newspaper readership, said “no top policy maker in Washington starts his day without reading the New York Times.” This reveals the importance every society attached to the press in carrying out its surveillances and information function.

As Breden Douglas Achotona, a surgeon and one time Deputy Governor of Imo state put it, “I think we (government) really used you (media) to function properly, particularly in knowing what our people think of our policies. What he confirm is that even those in government are immensely aware of the influence of the press and do consciously strive to take them serious.

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However, one thing is clear there, that is the press must understand its messages very well in order to positively influence government official.

This is true because one cannot comment on a topic he /she does not know. To write about the local community affected by government activities without understanding them is not conducive to effectiveness.

Eket D. Akpan I. quotes former head of department of mass communication, polytechnic, calabar was in support of Mac. Doughall when he stated.

“Mass society theories attribute to the press the power to manipulate the minds and actions of masses (people).

The scholars emphasize is that those who are in control of the press must understand not only the messages. It is believed that only though such a systematic approach that the desired objective of the press influencing the formulation of policies can be achieved.

But contrary to expectations, the people who benefits from the activities of press have not be kind to them. They (press) have been accused of ‘biases and selfishness. Just as the government will-haunt them, so also the serve.

However, the press is not keeping quite. They posses in-built mechanism which ensure that the trust and confidence reposed in them is not abused. That is why in the code of conduct set out by the Nigeria press council, the first item deals exclusively with the press telling the truth and upholding the public trust. It stipulates.

That every public entitled to truth, and that only corrects information for the basis for sound journalism and ensures the confidence of the people.

Joseph Igbinedion, a mass communication scholar supported the above statement when writing against favour and gifts in journalistic practice. Igbinedion admonished proprietors of the press thus:

A proprietor of a medium should set high ethical standard and advice his reporters to abide to them. Such standard will help the pres provide better service of Africa-communities, a task which most media organizations are committed.

In effect, for the press to have the credibility required sound and effective influence on the government, they must be like leaser’s wife, be above board. They must stick to the truth no matter the harassment and intimidation, particularly from the government.

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Therefore, there lies the dilemma of the press, government having known the tremendous influence of the press deliberately set out to cut their power. But it still remains the press responsibility to ensure that all matters concerning the public are reported truthfully and accurately. They must also continue to exist the desired influence on government in order to bring about a better living standard of Nigerians in the next millennium.

In many, those who report the news and are close to government functionaries see beyond what the official tell them. This is done to prevent a situation where lies are fed to the people and the press becomes unwilling accomplices in a game of deception. This is often contain in politics and this also explains why Cambell and Wolsley in their book “how to report and write the NEWS” admonished thus.

The (political) reporter should do more than receit what has happened or may happen in politics. He should be curious about inconsistence and lies.

Influence of Newspaper in Shaping Local Government Policies; a Case Study of Awka North

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