NEWSPAPER OWNERSHIP AND EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF POINTER AND GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER
The Nigerian press has seen different kinds of ownership ranging from missions, groups, and individuals to governments. Yet ownership of some newspapers remained obscure and a subject of speculation. Beyond the traditional functions, Nigerian newspapers have served purposes that diverged from their professed philosophy or ideologies. The total population for the study is 200 staff of guardian and pointer newspaper. The researcher used questionnaires as the instrument for the data collection. Descriptive Survey research design was adopted for this study. A total of 133 respondents made up clearing officers,direct sales reps,senior staff and junior staff was used for the study. The data collected were presented in tables and analyzed using simple percentages and frequencies.
Background of the study
The media is an important social mirror. It sets social, political and economic agenda and amplifies development. The media is one of the most powerful institutions because of the control it exercises over the information transmitted to the masses. Its role in shaping public opinion cannot be underestimated. A strong, fair, objective and independent media helps in development of vibrant democracies and progressive societies.
Alger (1998) asserts that the media are crucial to the development of stable and functioning democracies and mature societies. He contends that one of the factors that determine the efficiency of the media in fulfilling their socio-political role is how they are owned and controlled. For a media to effectively succeed in its role there must be editorial independence. Editorial independence is defined as the decision making freedoms that editors enjoy without interference from the media owners. Editors gain freedom when they detach themselves from their preconceptions, biases, prejudgments and external influence (Bagdikian, 1997). The detachment helps them to develop trustworthiness and moral fibre that helps them uphold the truth and stand for what is right. However, the relationship between editors and media owners has a significant impact on editorial independence. The goals of the media owners often affect the decision making ability of editors in a media house. In most cases, it is almost impossible for editors to publish or broadcast without reference to the goals of the media house owner.
There are few media owners who believe unequivocally that total editorial independence is the only way to command respect and maintain integrity. Editors should always base their decisions on the importance their content to the public and not on the commercial success of the media house (Bogart, 1995). On the other hand, media owners should never interfere with the selection, evaluation and editing of content. Clear contracts that define editorial independence are nonexistent in many media houses (Gaziano, 1989). Furthermore, there are no established mechanisms that govern the relationship between editors and media owners. Therefore, in many countries, editorial independence exists until editors cross a certain line.
Editorial freedom or independence is the concept that editors-in-chief should have full authority over the editorial content of their journal. Like individual and national freedom or independence, it is a rhetorical concept whose realization flows from internal achievement as much as it depends on external validation. From cover to cover, editors have the right “to decide what is published, what is not published, when items are published, and what (if any) amendments are made prior to publication,” but they are constrained to “work within social, legal and ethical frameworks that circumscribe their freedom” and make them accountable, “in different but interlocking ways, to their publishers, readers and contributors and also to more abstract overseers: the medical profession, science and society.” This freedom entails roles and responsibilities (response-ability; the ability to respond) embodied in specific codes of practice for editors, such as the guidelines espoused by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME). The calling to embody these guidelines makes editing, in effect, a vocation a term that aptly describes burning both the “midnight oil” and the “candle at both ends” that all too familiarly mark the professional and personal life of any editor worth his or her salt. It also involves burning bridges, as the following lines convey: “journal editors walk a fine line. They must aspire to impartiality, open-mindedness, and intellectual honesty. They must try to select material for its merit, interest to readers, and originality alone. They also want their journals to have a voice and a personality. If they are doing their jobs well, they should give no favours, and they should have no friends”. Thus, in its purest sense, true editorial independence demands isolation and distancing, as “editors who make final decisions about manuscripts must have no personal, professional, or financial involvement in any of the issues they might judge.” This self-imposed separation and solitude involves bracketing one’s biases, prejudgments and preconceptions to enable evaluation of the material at hand. With such detachment (contra attachment) comes real freedom; to the extent that the editor is not beholden to person or power, office or opinion; he or she is free. Such freedom requires a moral fiber and trustworthiness that upholds truth and right, whether in full view of public scrutiny, or in the aloneness of private secrecy. “Because medical editors bear some of the responsibility for the reliability of published research and, in turn, for the care of patients, the health of the public, allocation of resources, and standards of medical ethics and professional behavior, editors must be trustworthy. To preserve this trust, an editor must avoid giving favors, must not be beholden to any special-interest group, and must be willing to publish articles on controversial subjects, even if they involve the organization that owns and publishes the journal”. The media play a central role in promoting freedom of thought and expression in every society. They offer opportunities for citizens to access information on relevant political, economic and cultural information. This information in turn becomes critical for the growth, development and prosperity of a nation as an informed citizenry is more apt to contribute to national development. Public service media constitute one of the key agents for providing citizens with information, education and entertainment that is free of commercial, State or political influences and biases.However, in most African countries, public service television has been transformed into State broadcasting where the State has exerted full control and influence on all aspects of the working of the national broadcaster. This has significantly restricted the freedom of national broadcasters in their programming, reporting and operations. In order to ensure that a public service broadcaster does not function as a State broadcaster, it is essential to guarantee the editorial independence of national broadcasters. However, through both overt and covert means, many governments have controlled television for promoting their own political and economic interests. Another recent trend, among most national broadcasters, has been to seek funding through commercial revenue and advertising. This has also diverted these public service and State broadcasters from their original mission and mandate. In Nigeria, there are three main types of media ownership namely, Government ownership, Private ownership and mixed ownership. In the case of government ownership, the media house is established, controlled and financed by the government, which the private ownership is when an individual or a group of persons establish, finance and control the media house. That of mixed ownership is when both government and private individuals are into some sort of partnership regarding establishing, financing and controlling the media house.The researcher agrees with the ideas of NnanyelugoOkon and Ben Agbo authors of “writing for the media society”. They wrote that “it is obviously true that mass media owners exert a threatening control medium is managed by a board of directors appointed by private owners or by a public cooperation established by the government .This work will go further to elaborate on media ownership influences on editorial policies in the chapters ahead.We should understand that, media ownership influence is exercised through financial control, appointment of principal staff, and government legislative decrees. In this circumstance, the media in question are either print or electronics and taking cognizance of the fact that the nature of ownership of any medium lies as the determining factor on how the medium shall operate. It is therefore worthy to note that this ownership pattern will no doubt influence the editorial policies of such a medium.In agreement with the dictum that he who pays the piper, dictates the fone. The media house whether owned by government, individuals or both would no doubt be made to propagate and promote the ideas, personalities and projects of the owners and it can also be achieved through the house styles and editorial policies of the media house.Editorial policies can be said to be those plans of actions meant to control the editorial matters of the media house, adopted by the board Directors and endorsed by the publisher(s) or owner(s). According to Ben Agbo and NnanyelugoOkon in their same text, Editorial policy is the path a newspaper elects to follow as it answers the two basic questions:
What shall we publish?
How shall we publish?
Worth reference to my case study, “Announcer Newspaper” which qualifies as a print medium following the characteristics of newspaper laid down by Nkem Fab Ukozor and Ben Agbo, authors of Mass communication purpose, principles, and practice. They wrote quoting a German Schokr, OttaGrota for determining a true newspaper are as follows:The newspaper must be published regularly at least once a week. That the newspaper must be mechanically produced, be available to any price.Vary in content such that the content will interest the larger audience, be published at specified times.The publisher of “Announcer newspaper”, Dr. Ezeani has appointed a board of Directors whose duty is to formulate editorial policies as they (eie those policies) suit him. He established the newspaper sometime in 2003.As a politician, (ie the publisher) such editorial policies have been formulated to favour his political structure and ideas so as to project him to higher political positions. The publisher of the announcer newspaper has employed the services of an editor, who maintains the house style of the newspaper and operates within the editorial policy limits as formulated by the board.Still on the “Announcer Newspaper”, the editor is answerable to the Editor-in-chief who is there to see that the newspaper operates according to the laid down (editorial) policy. The editor is expected to resign and leave if he is no longer disposed to such editorial policies of this paper and not to bend it. Every Monday morning, there is usually an editorial board meeting at announcer newspaper conference hall. The meeting is an avenue uses to make appraisals on the current edition and to resolve on the news to use for both front and back pages, (lead stories) etc for the next edition.The Editor will only make his professional input but must dance to the tone of the publisher though the Editor-in-chief in terms of editorial matters.In “Announcer Newspaper”, the editor will be asked to write the views and ideas of the publisher inform of editorial and or comments, which stands out invariably to represent as the voice of the newspaper on any particular issue. Surprisingly, the editorial or comments may not even be the ideas of the writer (Editor) but he must do it as directed or he resigns or gets sacked. The announcer newspaper editorial policy as it concerns stories on governments ate not static. The newspaper criticizes government when it sees negative things and turns to praise the same government if it sees positive approaches.In order words, balance, fairness and facts can still be associated with the Announcer Newspaper, but not when it has anything to do with the individual owner. In this case, selfish motives overweigh decisions and judgments. This has necessitated a research on the topic media ownership and its influence on editorial policy with a case study of Announcer Newspaper.The Announcer Newspaper has reached some understanding with both state and local governments of Imo state in such a manner that the medium can be getting some adverts from these quarters and in this circumstance, the newspaper will no longer hit hard at the afore- stated in order not to destroy the mass media rapport. Nevertheless, Editorial policy, determinants are the nature of readership, proprietorship, competition/lack of if, Geographical location, economic interest and political outlook, just like I said earlier, editorial policy is all about what shall be published and how it shall be published. There editorial policies are often expressed through the following:
News-stories the paper carries.
Cartoons the paper carries
The paper’s slogan (motto), which is often carried in the nameplate or below the mast- head.The platform code where the paper enumerates the number of projects or principle for which it stands.All Newspapers has editorial policies, which are however influenced by the ownership of the Newspaper. “Announcer Newspaper”, my case study has its own editorial policy which are highlighted in the paper and how the ownership of the media has house is also being influenced is highlighted in the paper.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Based on the research made, sponsorship of the media house, its control and recruitment of its principal staff have formed the influential factors consequent upon the editorial policy of the media house since the owner(s) of the media house usually does or do the afore-stated factors. The media ownership have therefore in some ways influenced the editorial policy and this has posed problems to journalism as a trade.In this case, the editorial writing has to function with the policy framework and editorial principles. Nothing runs the editor down as having the option of either doing it the way the policy dictates or he resigns or otherwise sacked.Influence of media ownership on editorial policy has made many newspapers to collapse in operations and have also made them to lose their readership grip. In the case of Announcer Newspapers, as a privately owned Newspaper, if dies not have so many policies that usually affect its readership except that its front and back page stories are centered on Imo state. Often times, it faces the stiff competition of the national and other local newspapers.Again, people from other state would always see the purchase of the newspaper as a waste since it does not usually spread its tentacles.According to the staff of “Announcer Newspaper”, the publisher (owner) brings to production room when it is already time for production. This delays production of the paper.
OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
In summary, this research work is a comparative analysis of Pointer and guardian newspaper on newspaper ownership and editorial independence, and to study the correlation between Pointer and guardian newspaper. Other research objectives are listed below as follows:
- This work is aimed at highlighting on ways by which newspaper ownership manages its editorial policy.
- To give some information on the extent (based on research influence) an editorial policy has gone in destroying journalistic principles. Vis-à-vis the consequences of such cases
- It would also act as a meditating factor and would go as much as proffering solution forwards checking these excesses.
For the successful completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;
H1: Newspaper ownership does not influences editorial independence and policy of aneditor.
H0: Newspaper ownership influences editorial independence and policy of aneditor.
H2: Job security of the journalist in private newspaper house cannot be guaranteed.
H0: Job security of the journalist in private newspaper housebe guaranteed.
H3: Ethics of journalism can be used to check the influence of the Newspaper ownership on editorial policy.
H0: Ethics of journalism cannot be used to check the influence of the Newspaper ownership on the editorial policy.
Significance of Study
This research work will present in a precise manner, newspaper ownership and editorial independence on writing and publishing. It is believed that the findings of this research work should provide detailed information on the effects of newspaper ownership and editorial independence in publication. It is also expected that the study will benefit newspapers owners, editors, researchers and the society in general.The findings of the study should be useful to editors. It is expected that the findings will expose the editorial independence in publication and writing and the right to their selves. By this exposure the editors could acknowledge the limits to their boundary and judiciary. It is possible that by this outcome the editors would realistically adjust to the application and policy of their independence. Subsequently, it will go a long way to enhance the mass communication and journalism students’ effectiveness in the society by being capable of carrying out what they have learned, thereby contributing to the building up of the society at the local, national and international levels.The research will also be beneficial to the researcher. This is because the study will expose the researcher to so many related areas in the course of carrying out his research. This will enhance the researcher’s experience, knowledge and understanding on editorial independence.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of the study covers newspaper ownership and editorial independence a comparative analysis of Pointer and guardian newspaper. The researcher encounters some constrain which limited the scope of the study;
- a) AVAILABILITY OF RESEARCH MATERIAL: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study
- b) TIME: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
- c) Organizational privacy: Limited Access to the selected auditing firm makes it difficult to get all the necessary and required information concerning the activities.