The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, has stressed that community media should be a tool for national growth and development.
While listing community media to include radio, television, newspaper and magazine, Adesina added that the special media should also be a vital tool for building citizenship.
The veteran journalist and publicist, made the submission in a paper titled “Community media as tool of growth” to mark the 30th Anniversary of Prestige Newspaper in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Adesina, the former Editor-in- Chief and Managing Director of the The Sun Newspapers and National President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, described Prestige Newspaper as a shinning example of what a community media should be.
“They have determined their market, the audience, and stay within that locale. Call it grassroots journalism, and you may not be far from the truth”.
“Community media is a vital tool for building citizenship. Every country must build and nurture its citizens to be patriots, who love their nation. And unless the citizens know what the country stands for, and how it affects their lives positively, they may not have a sense of loyalty to that country. That is where a community medium comes in. It must build citizenship and raise social awareness.
“Unless a people have a stake in their society, they do not care a hoot what becomes of that society. It may as well go to the dogs. But when they see themselves as stakeholders, they go the extra mile to protect the cohesion and tranquility of that society. Community media can go a long way in engendering such fervor.
He saluted the resilience and staying power of the publisher, management and staff of Prestige Newspaper for having been in the industry for 30 whole years.
“For every newspaper you see surviving for three decades, whether community, state or national, many other hundreds, if not thousands, have died, with their carcasses littering the media landscape. Some others have become faint memories, while others are in the realm of monuments and artifacts.
“Please join me to salute the publisher, management and staff of Prestige Newspaper for weathering the storm. The philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, says: ”Life is like being out on the sea. A body has to take the smooth and the rough.”
“Yes, when you sail on the sea, there are times it would be pleasant and smooth, and you could sing; ‘row, row, row your boat, gently down the sea, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.’
“But there are other times when the sea becomes stormy, tempestuous, boisterous, and each person is calling on his or her God to show mercy. Prestige Newspaper has passed through the seasons, is still standing, and we are here to rejoice with it today”.
“Community media is a vital tool for building citizenship. Every country must build and nurture its citizens to be patriots, who love their nation. And unless the citizens know what the country stands for, and how it affects their lives positively, they may not have a sense of loyalty to that country.
“ That is where a community medium comes in. It must build citizenship and raise social awareness. Unless a people have a stake in their society, they do not care a hoot what becomes of that society. It may as well go to the dogs. But when they see themselves as stakeholders, they go the extra mile to protect the cohesion and tranquility of that society. Community media can go a long way in engendering such fervor”.
“Also, community media can make participation in public discourse easier. When they cater for the information, education and entertainment needs of a society, access is a lot easier for members of that community. They can add their voices to topical issues, and contribute to cross fertilization of ideas in healthy and productive ways.
“Again, in the media, it is said that all news is local. What better ways for people to ventilate their ideas, other than through community media. They can contribute to local issues, engage in democratic, economic and other issues, and have the satisfaction that their voices are being heard.
“There may not be anything more frustrating than a sense of being stifled, and not being heard, when you have germane contributions to make. Community media removes the frustration.
“Community media aims at smaller populations, as opposed to mainstream media. Therefore, issues that pertain to specific communities can be better tackled, and thus create a happier people. When there is no outlet for emotive opinions, it creates a disgruntled, and often restive sets of people.
“Adesina, who also said community media could be instruments of lobby for specific communities at times stressed: “They have issues to transmit to the state, to interest groups, to the legislature, even to the national, the media can be a veritable vehicle to do it”.
“Some other ways community media can serve as tool of growth is being voice in social struggles, awareness raising, tool of advocacy, and mass mobilization. For instance, Nigeria has done exceedingly well in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. You cannot rule out the role of community media in passing the message to our communities”.
According to Adesina, what community media should be doing further must including the following:
- Promoting narratives that advance national unity and cohesion; publishing stories that inspire and encourage people instead of amplifying feelings of discouragement and helplessness.
- Celebrating the successes of the military and law enforcement agencies, and public officials who have done well are doing well. The responsibility to criticize and to point out failures should be balanced by an equal responsibility to highlight success stories.
- Making information available to the public about government policies and programs and how they can benefit.
- There are dozens of government policies requiring explanation and contextualization and clarification, and it should not be the role of the government alone to do this. Community media are very important, because of the trust that the society has in them.
- The media, including those at the community level, have a responsibility to educate themselves about what Governments (Federal, State and Local) are doing. It means stepping out of the newsroom more often, and also going beyond social media sentiments to find out the actual ‘on-ground’ reality. If the FG says the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) has delivered stimulus funds to tens of thousands of Nigerian individuals and households, the media should get out there and look for beneficiaries, and talk to them; instead of sitting on social media only to harvest the noise of naysayers. When you have to do this in a specific community, it makes things easier.
“For example, in November, President Buhari signed two important Bills into law: the Climate Change Bill, and the AMCON Amendment Bill. The community media should take a deep dive into these new laws, and break it down for their audience to understand. What do they mean for ordinary Nigerians? How will they make life better?
In conclusion, Adesina said: “the community is everything. The society has its roots in the community. So do states, and even the nation. The community is the fulcrum for democracy, for religion, for interpersonal relationships. All these mean that community media play central roles in the lives of the people.
While thanking Prestige Newspaper for having played that role in the past 30 years, he wished the community newspaper greater successes in the decades ahead