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READERS PERCEPTION OF NEWSPAPER’S COVERAGE OF ELECTIONS
Background to the Study
The Nigerian presidential election has long been the greatest symbol of democracy in the country, from the Nigerian independence in 1960 through the conflicts and brief reign of the militaristic regime, to a return to civilian presidency with President Seun Shagari’s term in 1999. The year 2003 saw President Olusegun Obasanjo voted into office as the president of Nigeria. Following President Obasanjo was President Umaru Yaradua, who was voted into the Presidential office in the year 2009. Due to his declining health and subsequent death, the democratic process was foregone and the presidential role was filled by then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, who in 2011 later became the president of Nigeria after winning the Nigerian election and a full term was served.
In the month of March 2015, the presidential electionalong with several other elections had been carried out at various levels of government throughout the country was held and General Mohammed Buhari was elected president of Nigeria.
During and after the period of campaigning for the election, several mediums of advertisements were employed, ranging from Television ads to Billboards to rallies for the general public.One of the more popular mediums employed for the campaign were the newspapers. Every day saw a different set of advertisements and articles, all aimed towards the campaign either by subtly discrediting other candidates or by touting a specific candidate as the best choice.
The print media has been since before the time Nigerian independence been a powerful tool for swaying the opinion of general populace, it has been responsible for providing political informationto the general masses, like the state of corruption, the effectiveness of leaders, their shortcomings and many other things, before, after and during the election period.
The newspapers can be judged to play a large role in the decision making process of the readers, by providing exposure to certain advertisements, articles, features and in certain cases openly supporting certain candidates. This forms the basis of judgment for the readers, as certain political parties will have more exposure than others, it is important to understand how the readers, and subsequent voters, view the coverage and information dissemination process of these newspapers.
Statement of the Problem
It can be assumed that the newspaper’s coverage of these campaigns formed some basis for decision making amongst the masses during the elections, but it is important to consider the adequacy, effectiveness and fairness of this basis.An important duty of all journalistic establishments is fairness to both the reported and to the general public. The print media is responsible for its own reportage.
The 2015 presidential election was won by now President Mohammed Buhari, it is necessary to understand the part played by the newspapers in making this possible. The flow of information and the themes of that information presented by the newspaper must be understood in order to properly hold the newspapers accountable for their reportage and understand their relevance in the Nigerian democratic process.