Why government must patronise, support community newspapers in Nigeria

More than six decades ago, the United Nation called for a review of the International Communication and World press debate. Under the chairmanship of the Scottish Sean McBride and his 16-man committee, it was discovered that one of the main solution to the poor global communication is the establishment of community journalism. This finding served as impetus for the fifth and sixth mass media normative theories, popularised by Denis McQuail in the 80s.

The Development Media Theory and the Democratic Participant Theory stated, among other things, the establishment of local media at the grassroot level to cater for the need of the developing worlds. The Development media theory canvasses media support for existing government and its efforts to bring about socio-economic development. It argues that until a nation is well established and its economic development well underway, media must be supportive rather than critical of government, but assist them in implementing their policies. In effect, the media is seen to fulfil particular social and political duties by supporting national integration, socio-economic modernization, promotion of literacy and cultural creativity.

The Democratic Participant theory strongly advocated for establishment of community journalism in every independent communities. The theory stand for defense against commercialization and monopoly of mass media, it encourages small scale multiple, local and non-institutional media. The democratic participant theory encourages communitarianism and citizens’ participation in community affairs.

Academics, politicians and local business owners are the few groups in the society who seem to understand and appreciate the role of community journalism. It is our duty to educate the rest of the world about the role of community journalism in our society. The United Nations may have established the fact that mass media relations with every developing society are interdependent, we still need to embed this ideology in the minds of our contemporaries until they come to the realization that our mutual growth and development is greatly dependent on active media participation by all and sundry.

One surprising fact is that most advanced societies still practiced community journalism. In spite the big metropolitan and national newspapers in the United States and the United Kingdom, Community journalism still dominate the information scene in those societies. It is clear that a government who does not make effort to reach the people at the grassroot level is totally selfish and such government is an aberration in a democratic world.

The dearth of community media in Nigeria is worrisome. A nation which claims to lead Sub-Sahara African countries on the path of development should by now recorded hundredths of community press, but only infinitesimal figure could be presented.  The only surviving and foremost community press in Nigeria is the Oriwu Sun. A media house established by the UK trained Monzor Olowosago, has survived thirty five turbulent years. Based on share determination, expertise, and professionalism, the astute founder Monzor Olowosago has kept it running to the benefit of Lagos aborigines.

Other mushroom community papers which sprang along the years soon folded up quickly after they started. Today, he is calling on like minds to establish more community press as he believe in the role of the media in nation building. The founder of Oriwu Sun, did not rest on his oars as the most successful community press in Nigeria, but has gone out his way to invite government officials, community leaders, community council members and concerned groups to establish more local press. A gestures which takes only a true visionary and a noble pathfinder to make.

Though few notable Nigerian leaders understand the importance of community press, we have to keep reminding the decision makers of their duty to encourage more community press because everyone, including the government, have a lot to benefit from it.

The Ambode Akinwunmi dispensation has been the only administration which identified and promoted the cause of community journalism by encouraging them in different ways. Ambode, in his three years in office enhanced the establishment of more local press in Lagos city by hosting community journalists in fora across the state and creating a commission to oversee it affairs. His effort yielded positive result in the increase of local press from barley ten to over a hundred and twenty presses in Lagos metropolis, all in a span of three years.

Most community press are looking up to the incoming governor with great concern, as Babajide Sanwo-Olu never made comment on community journalism throughout his campaign for office. The incoming governor of Lagos State (including governors of other states of the Federation) must embrace community press, because it is the only link of reaching the informed people at the grassroots level. They must understand that community journalism is not just in tandem with the most recent normative press theories but is for the benefit of the society they have been elected to govern. Steven Anu’ Adesemoye who have been teaching Community Journalism for over a decade explained that community Journalism finds its root and strength from the failures of the mainstream media. The lecturer assert that Community Journalism encourages active citizen participation in democracy, encourages development at both rural and urban areas, support and reinforces the art of volunteerism, speak community language (mother tongues) to encouraged informed audience to make informed decision affecting the nation. Community Journalism among other things, discourages urban migration, creates pro-poor job opportunities, ensure cultural protection and preservation, it helps build hyperlocal and native intelligence and promotes SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprise scheme).

Its high time concerned bodies, groups, elected officials and community council rise to the principles and practice of community journalism.

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