Community Journalism and Quest for Professionalism
Purpose of the Study
- To assess the impact of digital technologies and social media on the professionalism of community journalism..
- To evaluate the financial constraints faced by community journalism outlets and their impact on professionalism.
- To explore the balance between advocacy and objectivity in community journalism.
- To examine the issue of diversity and representation in community journalism and its impact on professionalism.
REVIEWED OF RELATED LITERATURE
The subject of professionalism in journalism has attracted much scholarly attention over the years. However, what are of interest here are studies which have a bearing on the organizational influence on the ability of journalists to keep to the ethics of their profession. A few of such studies are reviewed here. Ajia (1994) while bemoaning the spate of public criticism of the Nigerian press observes that the crux of such criticisms is on the quality of those who work in the media in terms of their skills, training, values, attitudes and degree of social responsibility. He submits that the Nigerian journalist has been found wanting both in expertise and credibility. Interestingly, Ajia points to organizational influence as a serious bane to the ethical practice of journalists, noting that there are technical methods of enforcing a publisher’s policy in the newsroom, even when such a policy is not documented. The strategies used in this regards include socializing the newcomers into newsroom norms, culture and expectations of the editors. What this connotes is that the journalist is bound to conform to the organization’s policies whether these are antithetical to the ethics and ideals of the profession or not. This position is further corroborated by Oso (2012) where he notes that the liberalization and commercialization policy of the federal government of Nigeria of the 1980s and 1990s which allow for strengthened ownership threw a lot of challenges to the professional standards of journalism practice in Nigeria. The policy made all forms of news coverage to be evaluated from the commercial point of view. The impact of the policy became noticeable on journalists’ sense of news judgment, especially in the broadcast media. News events not sponsored were hardly aired. According to Oso (2012): “The Journalist is not allowed the autonomy and detachment required for the practice of his trade. His professional judgment has been compromised. The sale of news is killing professionalism in Nigerian Broadcast journalism. Of a truth, commercialization of broadcasting has contributed to the dead of serious journalism in Nigerian Broadcasting” In a similar development, Okunna (1995) relates unethical practice in mass communication to those obtained in the entire society which means that whatever deterioration seen in the media circle today is a reflection of the corruption that is going on in the larger society – a society characterized by ‘dealers’ who parade themselves as leaders, and whose major strategy is to lobby the media owners, editors and reporters to allow their media space and platform to be used as propaganda instrument of the government. Of course, the media as part of the social system influence and are in turn influenced by other components of the system in accordance with the tenets of the normative press theories. This presupposes that a demonstration of unethical conduct by Nigerian journalists is a spill-over effect of the moral decadence of the larger Nigerian society. While classifying Nigerian journalists into types namely: a) Cocktail journalists who are pleasure seekers at the expense of professionalism, b) Next-of –kin journalists who are praise singers of those in power; c) General Order Journalists who are errand boys in the ministries and government parastatals and d) Journalist of Conscience who uphold professionalism even at a risk to their lives, Akinfeleye (1987) ironically opines that all of these referred to above are trained journalists but have chosen to practice journalism in an unethical way with the exception of those in the last category. Explicitly put, what this suggests is that lack of training may not necessarily be the cause of unethical conduct among journalists compared with journalists’ drive for egoistic considerations demonstrated in the unbridled quests for material acquisition. In his own view, Pate (2004) observes that the unholy romance between journalists and those in the corridors of power is another way of muzzling professionalism in journalism practice. Where journalists go almost cap in hand begging for assistance in both cash and kind from those they are supposed to watch over as watchdogs, how professional could such journalists be in the discharge of their civic duties? This instance as observed by Pate was further buttressed in a study by Tejuoso (2010) where he notes that the proliferation of journalists on the pay-roll of the government both at the state and federal levels have greatly eroded professionalism in journalistic practice. In credence to the above, Barger and Elliot (2000) also asserts that, “entry level journalists are often blinded by the routine of news gathering and the heavy socialization that takes place when they enter into the field”. Robinson and Leary-Kelly (1998) add that entry level journalists may adopt the attitudes and standards of the workplace, whether those standards are ethical or not”. Hanson (2002) supports this. A critical analysis of the literature reviewed shows that the issue of unethical conduct in journalistic trade is a sacred fact, whose causes however, transcends lack of training or poor attitudes of journalists to their job, but rather extends to, and deeply rooted in negative organizational influence on the journalists which is the focus of this paper.
Professionalism and Journalism: The Nigeria Experience
It is pertinent to note that Nigerian Journalism took off much earlier than the proclamation in angulations of the Nigerian nation. Evidently, Nigerian Journalism was not guided at inception by any law or regulations. Precisely, there was none in place to define the requirements, composition and operations of the players in the industry. Nigerian Journalism was dominated, at the beginning, by people drawn from several pools. According to Agbaje, “practitioners included the commercially frustrated local elites driven out of business by unfair competition from European monopolists, the unemployed, those sacked from jobs in ailing European firms, drop outs from other professions, etc.”(Agbaje, 1992, p. 42). The above shows that the forerunners of the profession, apart from the fact that they lacked the basic educational prerequisites, did not know or even see the job as a profession. Early practitioners went into the profession either to make ends meet or to obtain a meal ticket. This perception continued, even, after independence in 1960. History has it that, at an interview section between students of the International Press Institute (IPI) in Lagos and the Director of the Institute, Tom Hopkins, during the opening ceremony of the center by President Nnamidi Azikwe in 1964, a student told the Director that: You are just trying to make us feel good about being Journalists as though we had an important career before us. Don‟t you realize that all of us here are the throw-outs? And outcasts from other jobs. (Barton, 1979, p. 25).Thus, obviously, the early group of Journalists that attended formal School of Journalism equally harbored the notion that Journalism was not a profession. This affected their output as well as their disposition and self-estimation among their colleagues in other professions. Okunna (1995) states that the Nigerian society is filled with all sorts of ethical maladies that have defiled all cures over the years. She attributes the major cause directly or indirectly to the all-encompassing problem of materialism. Under this umbrella of materialism Okunna (1995) itemized bribery and corruption, kickback, ten per cent, kola, settlement, the Nigerian factor. Duyile (1988) states that while the journalist and indeed any person may react to the social conditions of his environment and develop the urge to join the bandwagon, there is a natural law that sometimes provides a constant check on his movement, his willingness to share the pollution and participate. The law spells the “dos and don’ts” of the club to which he belongs and from where he practices his profession. Traditionally, even in the Western world, Journalists learned or acquired their skills through on-the-job-training, the method changed in the early 20thCentury when the first school of Journalism in the United States was established at the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1908. And, a bequest from Joseph Pulitzer led to the creation of a graduate school of Journalism at Columbia University, New York City in 1912 (Castro, 2009).History has it that, Journalism in the developed world started through “apprenticeship method” – a system of learning the skills of a craft or trade from experts in the field by working with them for a period of time. The on-the-job-training method continued un abused in most of the developed nations until the early 20thCentury when formal Journalism Schools were established for the training of would be Journalists.
In this chapter, we described the research procedure for this study. A research methodology is a research process adopted or employed to systematically and scientifically present the results of a study to the research audience viz. a vis, the study beneficiaries.
Research designs are perceived to be an overall strategy adopted by the researcher whereby different components of the study are integrated in a logical manner to effectively address a research problem. In this study, the researcher employed the survey research design. This is due to the nature of the study whereby the opinion and views of people are sampled. According to Singleton & Straits, (2009), Survey research can use quantitative research strategies (e.g., using questionnaires with numerically rated items), qualitative research strategies (e.g., using open-ended questions), or both strategies (i.e., mixed methods). As it is often used to describe and explore human behaviour, surveys are therefore frequently used in social and psychological research.
POPULATION OF THE STUDY
According to Udoyen (2019), a study population is a group of elements or individuals as the case may be, who share similar characteristics. These similar features can include location, gender, age, sex or specific interest. The emphasis on study population is that it constitutes of individuals or elements that are homogeneous in description.
This study was carried to examine Community journalism and quest for professionalism. Edo broadcasting station forms the population of the study.
DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
This chapter presents the analysis of data derived through the questionnaire and key informant interview administered on the respondents in the study area. The analysis and interpretation were derived from the findings of the study. The data analysis depicts the simple frequency and percentage of the respondents as well as interpretation of the information gathered. A total of eighty (80) questionnaires were administered to respondents of which only seventy-seven (77) were returned and validated. This was due to irregular, incomplete and inappropriate responses to some questionnaire. For this study a total of 77 was validated for the analysis.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain Community journalism and quest for professionalism. In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of Community journalism and quest for professionalism.
This study was on Community journalism and quest for professionalism. Three objectives were raised which included: To assess the impact of digital technologies and social media on the professionalism of community journalism, to evaluate the financial constraints faced by community journalism outlets and their impact on professionalism, to explore the balance between advocacy and objectivity in community journalism and to examine the issue of diversity and representation in community journalism and its impact on professionalism. A total of 77 responses were received and validated from the enrolled participants where all respondents were drawn from Edo broadcasting station. Hypothesis was tested using Chi-Square statistical tool (SPSS).
In conclusion, while limitations exist, studying community journalism and the quest for professionalism provides valuable insights into this dynamic field. By addressing the identified limitations and embracing the complexities of community journalism, we can foster an environment that promotes professionalism, high-quality reporting, and strong community connections, ensuring the continued vitality of this vital aspect of the media landscape.
Based on the study’s findings on community journalism and the quest for professionalism, the following recommendations are proposed:
- Establish Clear Ethical Guidelines: Develop and promote a set of ethical guidelines specific to community journalism that reflect the values and responsibilities of the profession. These guidelines should address issues such as accuracy, fairness, transparency, and community engagement. Training programs should incorporate these guidelines to ensure that community journalists are equipped with the necessary ethical frameworks to guide their work.
- Strengthen Journalism Education: Collaborate with academic institutions to enhance journalism education programs with a focus on community journalism. Curricula should incorporate courses that cover topics such as ethics, media law, digital storytelling, audience engagement, and community journalism best practices. Practical experiences, internships, and partnerships with local news organizations can provide students with hands-on opportunities to develop their skills in community journalism.
- Foster Collaborative Networks: Encourage community journalists to form networks and associations that facilitate knowledge sharing, mentorship, and professional development. These networks can provide a platform for practitioners to exchange ideas, discuss challenges, and collaborate on projects. Professional organizations can organize workshops, conferences, and training sessions to enhance professional skills and promote ethical standards.
- Encourage Research and Scholarship: Promote research on community journalism and professionalism to advance knowledge in the field. Academic institutions, industry associations, and funding agencies should support research initiatives that investigate the impact of community journalism, identify best practices, and explore innovative approaches to fostering professionalism. Research findings should be shared with practitioners and policymakers to inform practice and policy decisions.
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