The Lens newspapers with moderate temperament is blazing the trail in development journalism.
By: Okokon Asanga
Newspapering as information source has metamorphosed over the years from semi informal to formal. However, notwithstanding the now social media platform online characterized by speed of delivery, the print media is still in reckoning as the literacy level of 59% in Nigeria as at 2015 published by UNESCO is a boast on readership. Nevertheless, the media still rubs off as well on the former as it not only augments the shortcoming associated with credibility but stabilizes the media online.
The Nigerian public particularly consumers of contents of main stream media have limited products, electronic or print, to choose from and thus are grossly underserved. Statistics shows that there are a total number of eighty-two radio stations, public and private, in Nigeria. Television stations are forty-six and mainly owned by government, save six private stations. In newspaper category, there are twelve national publications owned by private individuals. The local tabloids with leaning to geopolitical locations are irregular on newsstands and a sizable number have credibility issues bothering on registration. Magazine of national outlook are only five. The 1991 census in Nigeria puts the country’s population at 180 million with projection to exceed two hundred million in 2025. The literacy level bothering on the ability to read and write though average is still modest relative to the huge demographic. To this end, matching the literate population and scaling down further to consumers of media contents against the available news titles reveals this imbalance.
And probing further into the very few available products, indicates that more than half the number are owned and published in the Western region. The South – South shares the remaining, unevenly with other four regions. This undoubtedly grossly reduces the intensity of media coverage and consumption among states in the region. Cross River State for instance has about 6% average of exposure to media contents. On top of this disadvantage, even when stories are exposed, negative ones are often hyped while down playing the positives. A cursory assessment of media coverage and content in a given national publication and edition for instance, would reveal the extent of coverage and lopsided reportage the state has experienced. The Lens newspapers is poised to fill this void.
The Lens is positioned to focus on the South – South region, adequately reporting the states of Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo. Notwithstanding, we will as well take interest in reporting other regions but only to the extent that there is a coincidence of interest or to the extent that lessons from the event or place can be useful to our focal audience.
The Lens choose this path knowing that information in the 21st century should not only be vicarious but localized to meet domestic needs of the audience. Our perception of this tilt is more not on exclusion of other regions in the polity but on development.
It is a developmental trajectory which now resonates around the world. America, UK, Germany, France, and others are ready examples. Donald Trump, the United States President has his America first philosophy which is a nationalistic ideology. The exiting of Britain from the European Union a.k.a Brexit is a struggle as well towards nationhood.
The Lens will make a deliberate effort to report the positive. The idea is to provide examples, highlighting humble to land mark contributions from people of the region. The tabloid derives impetus on the lopsided reporting of the region by the national media. Oftentimes, too much effort is put to reporting the dark and too little to report the bright side of the people of the region. Ours in The Lens is to report the perspective of the region from the viewpoint of the people of the region thereby helping to redress the imbalances in news reporting of the region.
The need to redress this shortfall and imbalance in information flow is even more compelling now being down seventeen years already and still counting in democratic governance. The media undoubtedly is a key player in democracy. And in narrowing down its focus to the South – South region where access to information especially localized contents is still a struggle, The Lens is poised to bridge this information gap and position the region on information map.
Nevertheless as a professional brand, we cannot but occasionally report negative developments in the region. Certainly our aim is not to cover up but rather to situate the negative activity within the national context. This way we will make a difference in our reportage. The thrust would be to demonstrate the underlying sociopolitical forces at play and thus provide lead to locating similar occurrences nationwide. This way negative stories drop their tribal garb.
The name and the icon of stethoscope in the masthead of The Lens newspaper reflects the extent of resilience and depth the tabloid will follow stories. The Lens will strive to walk readers to the news of the day while staying on top of unfolding stories to update readers and report salient details behind the news.
The vision of The Lens is to go beyond the literary value of information and impact in a positive way the people of the region by changing their perceptions and encouraging them to scale limits whenever there is need.
We will achieve this by rigorously engaging the people on critical issues, domestic or national, by reporting different angles that will generate probing questions on the why and how to reflect on it. And solution in turn will be achieved while answering the question.
Three variants of the title – Monday, Wednesday and Friday are expected to hit newsstand. But Monday edition will hold forte in the time being, preparing grounds for Wednesday and Friday.
Published in maiden edition, Lens Newspapers Vol. 1 No. 1.