Zeroing in on media performance and x-raying how the media performs its information dissemination, watchdog and social responsibility roles while reporting elections is not the kind of event that is unexpected as 2015 beckons. This was precisely what happened at the fifth media tweet-a-thon organized by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, recently. The issue
Zeroing in on media performance and x-raying how the media performs its information dissemination, watchdog and social responsibility roles while reporting elections is not the kind of event that is unexpected as 2015 beckons.
This was precisely what happened at the fifth media tweet-a-thon organized by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, recently.
The issue for debate, this time around, was the outcome of one-month baseline media survey of the trend of reportage of election issues in six newspapers between July 21, 2014 and August 20, 2014. Hence, the theme for the day was “Report of baseline survey of newspapers coverage of electoral issues ahead 2015 elections: Matters arising and lessons”.
Director of IPC , Mr. Lanre Arogundade, explained that the theme was deliberately chosen so as to subject to public scrutiny the findings of the one-month exercise which involved six newspapers including The Punch, Thisday, The Guardian, Daily Trust, Daily Sun and The Nation Newspapers”. He added that the success of the 2015 elections concerns all stakeholders, among which is the media, which is expected to play a critical role.
According to him, the survey revealed some strengths and weaknesses in the reporting of the electoral process by the concerned newspapers which are worthy of further analysis hence the decision to invite Mr. Ray Ekpu, a seasoned journalist, co-founder of the Newswatch Magazine and former President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN)
In his presentation, Ekpu said although the media serves as a vehicle that can help to deliver information to a very large audience all at once, it (the media) alone cannot set public agenda for election reporting.
“Agenda setting for a nation is a joint enterprise, a communal service and a national project that must be done by all major stakeholders- the government, civil society, elite groups, think tank, thought leaders and the media”, he posited.
The highly respected media icon warned that if things are not gotten right, by all concerned, then the future will be bleak. He explained that the survey covered the period between July 21st, 2014 and August, 20th, 2014 with the Osun state governorship election used as a bench mark.
He added that although the survey covered the electioneering period in Osun state, it was also important to note that it came up on the heels of the elections in Ekiti state in which an incumbent All Progressive Congress (APC) Governor, Kayode Fayemi, was kicked out of office by a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governor in the state, Ayo Fayose. According to him, the contest in Osun State elections generated much heat against this background, due to the need for the APC to do a soul searching and a head scratching with the rival PDP having a ball for its feet in the neighbouring state.
He pointed out that perhaps one of the early pitfalls that emerged from the period of soul searching is the now famous “stomach infrastructural” policy of the newly inaugurated PDP Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State. He therefore submitted that the choice of the period for the media survey was spot-on, as there was a remarkable media buzz following the political activities in Ekiti state as explained above.
His words: “For the media and politicians, the period preceding the Osun elections was a period of campaign activities during which both APC and PDP stepped up their campaigns and this must have been reflected in the media coverage”
Making a critique of the survey methodology, Ekpu remarked that that some of the newspapers used for the survey have more than one edition in which case some of the stories that feature on the front page in one edition may be downplayed in an edition that sells elsewhere and vice versa. According to him, it would have been helpful to know where the content of the newspapers was sourced from”.
“Another point to make is that all the newspapers surveyed were edited by different persons, one editor edits the paper from Monday to Friday while another edits the Saturday and another, the Sunday versions of the paper. The perspectives of the editors on all the issues may differ depending on whether it is a male or a female that edits which paper. For instance, the daily Thisday and the Sunday Punch are edited by women; what effect could this have on their papers handling of gender issues?” he inquired.
Giving a general overview of the report, he noted that the outcome of the report states that a total of 2,349 reports were published and monitored in the six newspapers during the period with Daily Sun Newspapers taking the lead in terms of stories reported with 22.3percent. He further revealed that the analysis of the report of the survey indicated that Editorial focus took the chunk of the reportage at about 80 percent, rather than straight jacket news reporting.
“This is the area that deals with most of the issues central to the elections such as voter education, electoral reforms, political conflict, manifestoes, and credible elections, hence the heavyweight recorded in this area is justified”, he said.
“From the overall figures, it can be seen that Daily Sun and The Nation were the leaders, recording 523 stories and 514 stories respectively. Is it because the two newspapers are owned by politicians or are their editors politically sensitive than the other editors?” he asked.
Mr. Ekpu noted that in the analysis, the PDP was mentioned 1,423 times with APC appearing a record 1,284 times with the SDP making the rear of being mentioned 20 times, but quickly added that the real weight of each of the newspaper brand’s acceptability may never be known as their respective performance may be due to perceived strength in political reportage, intensity of political activities and strength of each of the party, amongst other factors.
The veteran journalist agreed that from the survey, it was clear that more male politicians at 781 were quoted as sources, followed by government executives at 191, civil society at 129, experts at 121, electoral body at 119, media at 78, ordinary citizens at 66, youths at 48, and female politicians at 48 and security agencies at 40.
He lamented that the ordinary man in the streets whom the entire exercise is targeted at addressing were not fully represented.
He however pointed out that maybe the media believes that the quality of information needed can only be supplied by the people they spoke to or that maybe the media prefers to deal more with politicians or perhaps, maybe the ordinary man had lost faith in the system. He added that it was pathetic that some of the political parties that were under reported were not even on ground with only 18 out of the registered 30 receiving a mention at all in the exercise across the six newspapers.
He also noted that the fact that 1,815 of the monitored items, which were about 76 percent, were news items, with features scoring about 6.4percent while investigative stories were negligible, showed efforts should henceforth be made to encourage the culture of investigations as this is what actually sells the newspaper product.
While appraising the situation in the Nigerian Press in the context of gender representation, Mr. Ekpu pointed out that the Nigerian newsroom was under represented by women in their daily operations with the few ones involved engaged in reporting soft areas thus making them to be dubbed Supermarket journalists. Agreeing with the report’s findings which include the need for the media to embrace the philosophy of gender-supportive reporting of the 2015 elections through greater projection of female politicians, Mr. Ekpu urged women associations to do more networking and sensitization of women to participate actively in politics rather than as cheer leaders or as welfare officers.
“The National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) needs to do more in encouraging young women in journalism because the more women we have, the more gender issues will be appreciated and focused on”, he firmly proposed.
The lead discussant, Mr. Tunde Akanni, a Communication Lecturer at the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos said that the world of the media profession has changed due to the ripple effect and impact that the social media has had on citizens all over the world.
He cited the example of the changes that a certain Linda Ikeji has made by using her blog to communicate to millions of audiences around the world. He affirmed that investigative journalism still remains the bedrock of news reporting and pleaded with journalists to take it very seriously. He also advised the women folk in the media to step up their game as they were being left behind by the men.
Commenting and asking questions on the lead presentation and discussion, the participants agreed that more professional and ethical reporting of the elections would enhance the credibility of the process as well as the ability of the citizens to make informed choices.
Organized by the International Press Centre, under the auspices of the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) programme of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and its development partners; The European Union, UK Aid, the Canadian Department for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, the meeting aimed to strengthen and advance the role of the media as purveyor of information in ensuring professional reporting of the 2015 elections.
Download the report of the baseline survey here .