2 December 2012

Nigeria: A Pleasant Morning At the Newspaper Stand

Like a regular academic environment, where people gather to share views and ideas and argue about crucial and topical matters, the typical newspaper vendors' stand in Abuja share some similar traits.

In the morning, mostly on Saturdays, different people converge at such stands, where some buy newspapers, some read for a token, some just come to have some glance at the headlines while some only listen to people as they argue and share ideas.

A visit to one of the news stands on a Saturday morning shows how important the newspaper vendor is. Regardless of the fact that he is barely literate, Kassim Ayo, a newspaper seller in Kubwa claims to know some of the major events that the newspapers report about.

He sometimes suggests to customers which newspaper carries the best reports, which has the best of sport stories, and which are best to be read on weekends.

At the newspaper stand also, different folks are met. Some educated, some not so educated, some even illiterates, all with one or two things to do at the news stand.

The interesting part of the observation is the way and manner the readers and buyers analyse newspapers' contents. Some hardly differentiate opinions, letters from news reports.

Last week, some two young men almost fought because of a report they read together. It was a news report that was generated or culled from the internet by the newspaper. The report was not about any topical or national issue in Nigeria; it was about the much followed English Premier League football clubs and their players.

In the process of reading the piece, argument ensued which later became heated, with other people at the stand taking sides.

When asked how often he witnesses such brawl, Ayo, the vendor, said it is a regular occurrence. "I see this kind of quarrels every day, even the elderly and much more mature people do engage in this," he said.

"I do come very early for my business because my clients mostly come as early as possible to buy papers. Some of them while on their way from their regular exercise or fitness jogging, so I do come out very early but I still meet some people waiting for me to read papers, stay here, discuss and argue. They often quarrel".

However, he said, most of the heated arguments come from sports enthusiasts or from news reports that have serious impact on people.

"There is a man, he is fondly called Prof. Whenever he is around, a lot of people argue alongside him," he said.

"Some of my big customers use to come and buy the papers themselves while some of them send their drivers or children. However, some do come sit here, read some portions of the paper and go home to (finish the rest)."

One of the buyers, Chukwuma John, said he does come out to read papers, after which he buys one.

"I prefer coming here to read some of the papers before buying the one I want. I do read a few of them before buying one copy. If you don't do that, you'll have to pay some money to read," he said.

"The newspaper man knows me, he knows whenever I come, I'll read a couple of them, and then eventually buy one. He allows that. But where you don't buy, next time he'll refuse you access to the papers completely."

Another observation at the newspaper stand is that most of the readers seem to have high regard for the media and tend to believe the contents of reports in the papers. Some of them know which paper to read to get what perspective in certain stories and issues.

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