Nigerian media has received knocks for not paying attention to the business of newspaper enterprise. Also, its neglect of community and regional newspapering in favour of a national outlook has been blamed for eroding niche, communal reporting with the result that sameness of news offering has become the norm rather than the exception.
Not least among the charges are that Nigerian media takes its audience for granted and offers it no form of corporate social responsibility or makes no efforts at deepening and rebranding itself.
These were the submissions of Dr. Chido Nwakanma, who lectured on 'Reporting and Analytical Skills' at a recent two-day capacity building for media professionals, designed to re-skill competencies, at School of Media and Communication (SMC), Pan-Atlantic University (PAU), Ajah, Lagos.
Nwakanma held up Iwe Irohin, a pioneer and colonial newspaper in Abeokuta, as a standard in articulating the local issues of the Egba and the entire Yoruba audience, saying it served to educate the populace on important local concerns. He noted that the people related well with the paper and claimed ownership of it because it championed their specific causes and spoke to their smallest interests and even offered advice on neighbourhood issues.
However, what is prevalent in today's media landscape, he stated, are newspapers that claim national outlook and are less focused on communities and regions. The result, according to him, is newspapers that are less relevant to community concerns and specific issues, with the pretence of satisfying national, vague interests that do not immediately impact on any specific audience or their concerns.
He described the media as the university always open to the public for knowledge acquisition.
He noted that the most circulating newspapers in the U.S. are community newspapers like Huffington Post and not New York Times or Washington Post, noting that people trust community, regional newspapers more than they do so-called national ones, which are far-removed from their immediate concerns.
Nwakanma said he'd thought that a newspaper in the South West, based in Ibadan, would blaze Iwe Irohin's trail by being a core regional paper, as perhaps its founding fathers conceived it, to cater for the interests of the people of its immediate community. However, he lamented that the newspaper has since gone national like the others and is currently in search of its soul and audience for relevance.
The media professional also fingered the death of Champion newspaper on such a misalignment of vision for switching focus from a newspaper catering for the interests of Ndi-Igbo to a national one. His submission bears out the saying that the 'local is the global or national,' adding that Champion's undefined, national audience cost the newspaper its original community focus and vision, with the result that it has gone defunct.
Nwakanma also harped on the importance of research in today's advanced marketplace and berated Nigerian media for totally neglecting the vital scientific tool research offers to enhance the ever-dynamic business of newspapering. He regarded it as unacceptable that a key business like the media could take the marketplace and its audience for granted and operate in pre-colonial style without facts and figures to guide its operations.
"Newspaper managers are not paying attention to the business of newspaper business," Nwakanma lamented. "No research is being done to find out what their niche position is. Research is lacking in newspapers. We're not paying attention to circulation. No information about their markets. There is no territorial mapping about distribution and redistribution of the markets and how to meet them."
Nwakanma, who was a player both in the newsroom and public relations in a multinational place before joining the academia, also lamented the media's total ignorance of what branding and merchandising could do to its individual and collective image as business the way other businesses take these two key publicity tools.
"The problem is," he submitted, "we are not taking our business seriously. The result is that we are increasingly becoming irrelevant. Other products' managers are constantly talking to consumers through advert campaigns, branding, merchandising, sponsorships, but not so newspapers, who take their consumers for granted. This is not good for business. We must reinvent ourselves to be relevant in today's dynamic marketplace!"