The study looked at the Coverage of Development Needs of Rural Communities by Select Local Newspapers. The content analysis research method was used for this study with population of 120 newspapers. Data were gathered using coding sheet and newspapers published within July through December, 2017. The objectives of the study were to: find out the level of prominence given to coverage of development needs of rural communities in the state by the select local newspapers in Akwa Ibom State; ascertain the depth of the coverage of development needs of rural communities by select local newspaper in Akwa Ibom State; determine the types of development issues covered by the select local newspapers; and find out the direction of reports given to rural issues by the select local newspapers in Akwa Ibom State. While the study was meant to lean on the development media and social responsibility theories of the media, it was found out from the study that: the select local dailies did not give so much prominence to issues of development in rural communities in Akwa Ibom State; the depth of coverage of development needs of rural communities by select local newspapers in Akwa Ibom State is really enormous; infrastructure is the type of development issues covered by the select local newspapers about rural communities in Akwa Ibom State; and the direction of reports given to rural issues by the select local newspapers in Akwa Ibom State is neutral. Data were analysed using tables and simple percentages. Based on the findings, the researcher recommended chiefly that editorial boards of the select local newspapers should endeavour to publish more stories on the cover and back pages of their newspapers as these tend to be first points of attraction. Suggestions for further studies were made by the researcher.
1.1 Background to the Study
In many rural communities in Africa and particularly Nigeria, development seems to be the need of the hour. Governments at both national and state levels are constantly making efforts to ensure the rapid and sustained development of communities within their territorial jurisdiction. Development is the desire of the human race, including those from parts of world often described as developed, to improve their conditions. Expectedly, though, scholars perceive development from different perspectives.
According to Nwanne (2006, p. 11), cited in Mboho and Batta (2012, p. 238), “development may be seen as efforts individuals make to move from point “A” to a more desirable point “B”. Another scholar, Amucheazu (1980, p. 4), defines development as a “multidimensional process involving the totality of man in his political, economic, psychological, social relations among others”. On their parts, Melkote and Steves (2001, p. 34) define development as “improving the living conditions of society”. They identify three development approaches as including the modernization perspectives, the critical perspectives and the liberation or monastic perspective. Supporting these views, Rodney (1972, p. 9) conceptualises development in human society as a many-sided process which at the individual level:
Implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being. Some of these are virtually moral categories and are difficult to evaluate… however, what is indisputable is that the achievement of any of those aspects of personal development is very much tied with the state of society as a whole development is about the improvement of the individual in important and useful ways.
Inayatullah (1967) in Soola (2003, p. 13) sees development as “a change toward patterns of society that allow better realization of human values, that allow a society greater control over its environment and over its political destiny, and that enables its individuals to gain increased control over themselves”. Exercise of control over self by a nation or groups of nations is the highpoint of Inayatullah’s definition of development. Furthermore, Inayatullah’s idea tilts towards position of Ekeanyanwu (2015) of an industrialised nation – a nation that is able to produce at least 60% of what it consumes. Also, Todar and Smith (2003) stress that development is a process of economic and social advancement which enables people to realise their potentials, build self-confidence and lead lives of dignity and fulfilment. It is a process aimed at freeing people from the evils of want, ignorance, social injustice and economic exploitation. For clearer understanding of the issue of development, Todar and Smith (2003) identify three objectives of development as follows:
1. To increase the availability and widen the distribution of basic life sustaining goods such as food, shelter, health and protection.
2. To raise levels of living in addition to higher incomes, the provision of more jobs, better education and greater attention to cultural and human values, all of which will serve not only enhance material wellbeing but also generate greater individual and national self-esteem.
3. To expand the range of economic and social choices available to individuals and nations by freeing them from servitude and dependence, not only in relation to other people and nation states but also to the forces of ignorance and the multidimensional approaches of these scholars.
To determine societal or national and even rural development, it is, perhaps, necessary to ascertain the state of development of the individuals that make up the society or nation. Therefore, a country with a large population of illiterate and poor people can be said to have a huge economic development challenge on its hand. A country with poor leadership and low political participation like Nigeria would need to do more in addressing political advancement. There are other indices of development in most rural communities in Akwa Ibom State such as the provision of pipe borne water, electricity, building of clinic and maternities, facilities for waste management, opening up the rural roads, establishing small scale industries and many others. It is important to state here that the media have explored the role of the mass media in development. Senam (2014, p. 300) observes that “there is a strong link between news and development”.
The mass media have a role to play in communicating development messages to the populace. Daramola (2003) has observed that the mass media are contemporary means of circulating information to multitudes of people in a diversified society. Expanding Daramola’s position, one could say that the mass media despite how long they have existed, still maintain relevance among their audience; they continue to grow as the world and need for information grow. It is believed that the media motivate the people as well as ensure participation in the growth and developmental process apart from informing and educating members of the society (Adebayo, 1983).
Apparently, the press has contributed to the growth and development of the society in terms of political, economic, cultural, educational, agricultural and social system by creating a means or channel where by rural residents can gain knowledge for improving their lives and at the same time bringing up issues affecting rural dwellers to the front burner of national discourse.
As such, this study, therefore, seeks to find out how well the local dailies in Akwa Ibom State have fared in their reportage or coverage of development needs of rural communities in the state.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The mass media serve as a nexus between development and the people by providing information about others. The dependency of the society on the mass media for a greater parts of its needs places a responsibility on the mass media to ensure that information that will engender development in every stratum of the society is adequately provided. Adequate information that is development-centred from the mass media draws the attention of key players in the development process such as government and institution to any section of the society neglected in development programmes. Conversely, it seems that in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State in particular, newspapers have over the years underplayed the reportage of development issues as they affect the rural communities. Attention tends to greatly shift to urban areas, political happenings and the lives of public office holders. This seeming loophole in the coverage of rural communities motivated this study to ascertain the extent of coverage local newspapers in Akwa Ibom State give to the development needs of the rural areas in the state.