CONTENT ANALYSIS OF NEWSPAPERS COVERAGE OF TWITTER BAN IN NIGERIA
Members of the public have access to knowledge about events occurring both in their immediate environment and further afield thanks to the media. Because of the role that they play as watchdogs, news organizations are constantly on the lookout for occurrences and situations that can pique the interest of the people who consume their content. When making decisions on what should be reported on and deciding what constitutes news, journalists and other professionals working in the media refer to a set of criteria known as news values. The presence of conflict is a primary news value that propels coverage in the media. The attention and concentration of the media are easily drawn to a conflict situation, in part because of the accompanying plot and potential outcome of the crisis.
In spite of the fact that conflict is everywhere, the media almost always report on it in a biased and selective manner. The news media do not give each conflict situation the same amount of attention; while some conflicts receive extensive coverage, others receive inadequate coverage or are not covered at all. In his analysis of the coverage of wars in Africa by worldwide media, Anup (2010) provides some insight into this topic. He claims that the world media routinely ignores, oversimplifies, or takes a limited focus on issues of conflict in Africa even when the ensuing deaths and displacements are greater than those of other conflicts (in other areas) that they choose to put emphasis on. Conflicts that are given no or low priority in the news media quickly become “invisible,” as though they never existed or are notstill unfolding. This is primarily due to the fact that the media reduces or eliminates the chances of these conflicts featuring in the agenda of the public sphere, whether on a national or international level (Sonwalkar, 2004). The result is that these conflicts could stretch on for a long time without ever acquiring the sense of urgency for settlement that would have otherwise been engendered by prominent exposure in the media.
In order for a conflict scenario to be worthy of coverage by the media, it is necessary for the media to first examine the prominence, status, or relevance of the opposing parties or subjects at hand in relation to what the audience cares about (Reuben, 2009). It is possible that the primary reason why the audience is taken into consideration throughout the process of conflict coverage and reportage is due to the fact that the media plan and carry out their news coverage “against the background of a cost benefit analysis” (Udoakah, 2006, p. 33). In particular, it is a primary goal of independent media outlets to align themselves with what would provoke and sustain the attention of the public. These outlets are eager to enhance both their audience base and their profit turnover. This provides a clue as to why the media, as Reuben (2009) observes, tend to lose sight of the underlying conflict and instead concentrate their attention on a dispute, which is an immediate symptom of a conflict. Conflict, with all of its potential for dramatic payoff, has essentially become a type of entertainment in the media. This invariably serves as a vehicle for stories, allowing them to maintain their own presence in the media markets and sell (Blasi, 2004). In any event, the coverage of the conflict in the media is the primary means through which the general public becomes aware of the outbreaks and retaliations of conflict. People still go to the media for some confirmation or new perspectives on a conflict situation even though the media is not the first source of knowledge about the crisis. This is because people believe the media to be more objective. The media, on the other hand, do not only transmit information; rather, they also provide the public with assistance, however covertly, in processing and interpreting the events that occur during a crisis situation. The media has the ability to influence both the public’s comprehension of a dispute and the formation of opinions towards that conflict through its use of framing and agenda setting. When reporting on conflicts, the media tend to organize their coverage according to the two-way dichotomy of “good” and “evil.” Even the most cursory examination will reveal this fact (Harris, 2004). This factor alone determines how members of the public attach values to a conflict scenario, how they see the parties or issues at issue, and which of the parties or causes they chose to sympathize with, whether consciously or unconsciously. In addition to its role in the transmission of information and the perception of events, media coverage can also have an immediate and significant impact on the development of a conflict. The media are capable of playing both negative and positive roles, going so far as to either instigate conflict or promote the status quo of existing conflict. On the one hand, the content that is produced by the media has the potential to provoke or exacerbate conflict, while on the other hand, the media has the potential to assist in the reduction of conflict or even in its settlement.