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EDITORIAL POLICY AND JOURNALISTS’ PROFESSIONAL DUTIES: A STUDY OF FRCN ABUJA NETWORK CENTRE

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 Pages: 100   Attributes: STANDARD RESEARCH

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 Aug 06, 2019 |  04:13 pm |  2115
EDITORIAL POLICY AND JOURNALISTS’ PROFESSIONAL DUTIES: A STUDY OF FRCN ABUJA NETWORK CENTRE

ABSTRACT

This study examined how conflicting editorial policy is managed by journalists in Radio Nigeria Network Centre, Abuja. It argues that, conflicting editorial policy put journalists in a difficult state where he/she struggles to satisfy two opposing principles. The study aims at finding out how journalists in the station manage the editorial policy of serving government interest by explaining new government policies and intentions and the policy of ensuring fairness, balance and factuality in reportage which is contained in item 2.6 (iv) and 2.3 (i) of the station’s operational guideline. The Gatekeeping theory of the media was employed and survey was used as research method. Census of all (96) journalists in the station was done. Data were collected using questionnaire and key informant interview. Findings revealed that, journalists in the station managed conflicting editorial policy through neutrality in reportage that is, desisting from injecting their personal views in their reportage but sticking to what their employers want. It was equally found that 52.7 per cent of the respondents out of the sample population hold that the editorial policy of serving government interest negatively affects the professional ethics of balance in news reportage as journalists are constrained by ownership interest. The study also revealed that 54.9 per cent respondents agree that government sometimes interfere with editorial decisions of journalists in Radio Nigeria, Abuja. Based on the findings, it was recommended that editorial policy should be devoid of conflicting provisions; and public broadcast outfits should take public interest as a watch word. Also, should be media autonomy in Government owned media in Nigeria in order for broadcast stations to independently generate revenues, pay staff and give journalists a free hand to carry out their duties.


  CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1    BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Every media organization,irrespective of the type and pattern of ownership has an editorial policy which defines the mission and vision of such organization. It spells out the philosophy on which media outfits operate. It also spells out to journalists, what to cover, how to cover it, and how to present it. It also serves as a barometer to measure performance of journalists in a station.Owums (2007, 2008) and Asemah(2011) agree that, every station has a principle that is described as a written or unwritten statement that guide performance of managers, editors, reporters, presenters, and programmers within such a station. It stipulates the acceptable norms of performance which each worker in the station must observe in order to comply with the rules and codes established by the station. It contains the mission statement as an avenue for attaining the purpose of the station. It also contains the house style that determines how programmes are to be produced for the station.

Awolowo (2009) note that, every media outfit has its own operational guidelines and laid down rules and position or stand on some issues, which professional communicators in such organization (the gate-keepers) must adhere to. Some of which according to her include; Policy on Language/Diction-this media policy emphasizes how a media organization chooses words in communicating to the public. The language or choice of words are often determined by location and primary audience of the newspaper, magazine, radio or television station, advert agency or film production outfit. The management of media outfit may choose to present their news items or production using simple, understandable, or everyday English (e.g. for semi-literate people). Example of such media outfits include: The Punch, Daily Sun, MITV, Galaxy. On the other hand, a news media outfit may decide to use high sounding vocabularies and grammar in presenting their news e.g. The Guardian, Channels Television, Ray power etc (for highly literate audience). This policy also involves the language they will be using. Some radio stations broadcast in pidgin e.g. Wazobia FM, while some in Yoruba and English e.g. Radio Lagos, NTA Channel 10 while some may use either Igbo or Hausa. There are also soft-sell newspapers and magazines published in Yoruba e.g. Alaroye. The editors or presenters of these media outfits ensure that the words used don’t go beyond the confinement and definition of the organization’s in-house style on diction and language (Awolowo, 2009).

Policy on Recruitment- Awolowo (2009) explains that, media houses have policy on the criteria of employment of new staff, that is, who to employ and who not to employ. Apart from educational qualification and experience, some news media outfits don’t employ somebody that is not a member of a recognized media professional institution like the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), while some may decide to employ those that have been to Nigeria Institute of Journalism (NIJ). After employing an individual, the policy of the media house may require that person to be re-trained about in-house policy of reporting, writing and presenting news in the media organization.

Policy on News Coverage and Reportage- (McQuail, 2007) identifies personality, personal contacts of reporters, location, proximity, timeliness and exclusivity, as some of the factors in news selection. Okioya and Adedowole (2011) note that, various news media houses have their own area of interests when covering a particular news event or interview. For instance, a reporter from Daily Sun may look for human angle or bizarre side of a news story for reportage while others in Daily Trust newspaper or other newspapers may not. This policy therefore defines which story to cover and which not to cover, which to give prominence and which not.

Policy on Editorial Philosophy- Awolowo (2009) further explains that, this policy has to do with the overall professional standpoint or standards through which news media houses perform their operations. It could be regarded as the mission or vision statement of the media house. She further points out that, the editorial philosophy or culture of a media house goes a long way to determine the content of their reportage.

In Nigeria like every other country of the world, there are government and privately-owned media stations whose manpower supply is sourced from the industry itself and from the universities, polytechnics and monotechnics that offer courses in communication studies, (Akinfeleye cited in Momoh, 2010). Each of these radio, television, newspaper and magazine outfits has an editorial philosophy or policy defined by its owner in line with what the station is set out to achieve and also to regulate activities and measure performance of journalists. Christopher and Onwuka (2013) notes that through editorial policy, owners of media outfits determine to journalists what to select and how to present it. For instance Ojo, (2003) say, the fuel subsidy removal crisis in 2012 received diverse reaction by media outfits in the North, East, West and Southern part of Nigeria. Noting that, the religion, political, regional and ethnic interest of its owners through its editorial policy never gave chance for responsible reporting. He further notes that, ownership determines a media organ’s outlook. And that broadcast media controlled by respective governments largely serve the interest of party in government and also the private media serve the interest of its owner. This is in agreement with the dictum that, “he who pays the piper, dictates the tune”. However, the reason for editorial policy, according to Oluagbade (2003) is to ensure that journalists conform to recognized standard. Uwom and Aloa (2013) add that, the reason behind editorial policy is to use the media to achieve accelerated growth and transformation of the society, in different spheres and at different levels of national life. The implication of this, according to Akpede (2011) is the destruction of editorial independence, which states that news must be the product of a professional journalist. Nkem and Agbo (2010) note that, an editor, reporter, or presenter is expected to resign or be fired if he/she is no longer disposed to such editorial policy of his organization and not to bend it. No wonder, Ayo Ogunlade in the 1960s resigned his appointment as Director, News for refusing to air a report from one of the States House in Western Nigeria (Akpede, 2011).

In regard to the foregoing, the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) which functions as Nigeria’s publicly funded radio broadcasting organization with 25 stations located throughout the country and together with Voice of Nigeria and Zonal station in the 6 geopolitical zones broadcasting on Short Wave is not an exception to this. It has an editorial policy which provides sufficient details of policies and style of the organization as well as obligations of its workers and associates. Among which is item 2.6 (iv) which reads thus; it is the responsibility of Radio Nigeria to explain to the public new government policies, the intention for the policy, the implications of the policy as well as the expected roles of the public and also item 2.3 (i) which provides that, Radio Nigeria shall always ensure that all reports, comments and programmes are fair, balanced and factual.

It is pertinent therefore to note that, some of this laid down editorial policy in Radio Nigeria Abuja Network Centre may not augurwell with journalists because of the conflicting values of being subordinate to government by explaining to the public new government policies, the intention for the policy, the implications of the policy as well as the expected roles of the public and at the same time the policy of ensuring fairness, balance and factuality in news reportage. On

this note, Butler (2009) corroborates this stance that, journalists are confronted with two or more conflicting values to uphold in discharge of their journalistic functions. He notes that, among the most common conflict of values faced by journalists are;

1.      Truth versus Loyalty

2.      Individual versus Community

3.      Short term versus Long term

4.      Justice versus Mercy

This work therefore focused onto item 2.6 (iv) and item 2.3 (i) as indicated above hence the policies indicate a conflict of values to be upheld by journalists in Radio Nigeria, that is, the policy of serving government interest by explaining its policies to the people and what is expected of them and the policy of ensuring fairness, balance and factuality. As such, this study assessed how journalists in the station managed this aspect of FRCN-Abuja editorial policy in the discharge of their functions and to know how the editorial principle of serving government interest affected the professional tenet of objectivity and also how government influence on editorial policy impede on editorial independence of Radio Nigeria, Abuja Network Centre.

1.2    STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The media in Africa are mostly characterized by issues of corruption, conflict of editorial policies, biases, moonlighting, sycophancy and influence of editorial policy. In journalism, editorial policy which serves as guiding principle to journalistic activities confronts journalists with multiple values to uphold, some of which conflict with one another leaving journalists in a confused state of servicing two or more conflicting editorial principles. In this regard, Buttler (2009) say that, editorial policy presents to journalists conflicting values to uphold in the discharge of journalistic functions among which is mentioned above. In this regard, Christopher and Onwuka (2013) lament that; this situation tears apart a journalist who must find a way of impressing both.

From the foregoing,the FRCN-Abuja Network Centre has an editorial policy which includes item 2.6 (iv) and item 2.3 (i) as indicated above. In this regard, the two policies conflict each other hence item 2.6 (iv) bestow on the station the responsibility of serving government interest by explaining its policies and intentions to the public thereby making the station a subordinate and mouth piece of government; and item 2.3 (i) which implore journalists to uphold the professional ethics of fairness, balance and factuality in their reportage. It is therefore a thing of worry on how journalists cope with serving the interest of their owner and at the same time meeting up to the professional standard of balance. Also, research findings by Nwamah (2009) reveal that, media outfits make policies to guide journalistic functions and a study by Adeyemi (2013) show that activities of journalists are guided by his in-house policy. With this, it is evident that there is limitation in study on whether the various in-house policies of media outfits demand journalists to satisfy only the owner’s interest or meeting up to professional ethics or both. This is what this study investigated using FRCN Network Centre, Abuja as a case study. Therefore, the study examined how journalists managed conflicting editorial policy and also how the editorial policy of serving government interest affects the professional ethic of balance in selection and rejection of news worthy events by journalists and if government ownership of Radio Nigeria interfere with the editorial decision of journalists in the station.


1.3  RESEARCH OBJECTIVE

This research assessed how journalists manage conflict of editorial values in the discharge of journalistic functions. To achieve this, the specific objectives are:

1.     To examine the strategies which journalists in FRCN Abuja employ in adhering to the editorial policy of serving government interest and the policy of being fair, balance and factual in reportage.

2.     To determine whether FRCN-Abuja editorial policy of serving government interest affects the professional ethics of balance in news selection by journalists.

3.     To determine whether government ownership of Radio Nigeria Abuja affects the editorial decisions of journalists.

1.4     RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The study analyzed the following questions;

1.     What are the strategies which FRCN Abuja journalists apply in adhering to the editorial policy of serving government interest and the policy of being fair, balance and factual in reportage?

2.     In what ways do the policy of serving government interest affect the professional ethics of balance in news selection by journalists?

3.     In what ways government ownership of Radio Nigeria Abuja affect the editorial decisions of journalists?

Editorial policies, as written or unwritten statements, that guide performance of managers, editors, reporters, presenters, programmers within a station which have immense influence to journalistic functions. It stipulates the acceptable norms of performance which each worker in the station must observe in order to comply with the rules and codes established by the station. It contains the mission statement as an avenue for attaining the purpose of the station. It also contains the house style that determines how programmes are to be produced for the station. But Buttler (2009) points out that, editorial policy confronts journalists with two or more conflicting editorial principles to uphold in the discharge of their duties among which include; 1) Truth versus Loyalty 2) Individual versus Community 3) Short term versus Long term and 4) Justice versus Mercy. For this reason therefore, a study of this nature will be of immense importance because it will unravel the strategies which journalists employ in adhering to conflicting editorial principles and its implication on professional tenet of objectivity in journalism.

Also, as the literature show, editorial policy of media houses presents journalists with two or more conflicting values to uphold, this study adds to knowledge on how journalists cope with such conflicting values and the challenges attached in abiding by the editorial value of serving ownership interest in the discharge of journalistic functions.

The findings and recommendations of this study would be found useful to media organizations as it will make them understand the hazards of their laid down principles as faced by their employees. The study would also serve as a mirror to practicing journalists to see clearly where they need to make adjustments so as to carry out their social responsibility functions better without compromise


The study further contributes to the existing literature on this topic as it would give researchers opportunity to read and make reference to when discussing issues concerningconflict of editorial values in journalism. Also the study points out positive direction for a vibrant and professionally efficient press, which will translate to a very high image for the media with unequivocal positive economic implications.

The study willalso help prepare ethical minds amongst students of Mass Communication and journalism in order to reduce unprofessional conducts in journalism practice. Again, the study will propel further research on how constraints on journalistic practice could be reduced to the barest minimum or better still be eliminated where possible.

1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY

This study critically examined policies in Nigeria media industry with the editorial policy of FRCN Network Centre Abuja. Although the document contains many policies, this work focuses on item 2.6 (iv) which provides thus; “it is the responsibility of Radio Nigeria to explain to the public new government policies, the intention for the policy, the implications of the policy as well as the expected roles of the public” and also item 2.3 (i) which provides that, “Radio Nigeria shall always ensure that all reports, comments and programmes are fair, balanced and factual”. The reason is to investigate the strategies used by journalists in FRCN Abuja in dealing with conflicting editorial values in the discharge of their duties and to know if conflicting editorial principles affects the professional tenet of objectivity.


The concentration of this study on government owned broadcast media form an impediment to why the result cannot be generalized across all forms of media and ownership type (the state, higher institutions and religious organizations owned media outfits). Also, the study was unable to establish whether journalists in FRCN Abuja had access to the operational guideline of the station.

1.8 DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS

The following key terms;

(1)   Conflict of interest- This is a clash of personal values with professional callings or demands.

(2)   In-house policy- In relation to this study, this means the editorial policy of a media outfit which can be written or unwritten principles defined by media owners and these differs from one media organization to the other.

(3)   Journalistic activity-As regards to this study, this term means, news reportage, news editing, and presentation.

(4)   Media ownership-This refers to an individual, group of people or government that set up a newspaper, magazine, radio or television station for a purpose and oversee its activities and demands.

Professionalism-This is a behavior and good attitude towards ones work. In regard to this study this, involves (i) Fairness (ii) Balance (iii) Refusal of bribery (iv) Refusal of gifts (v) Non-Partisanship and (vi) editorial independence

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