Development at every level in the society thrives on effective communication. Rural development consists of a deliberate process aimed at improving the quality of life and economic well-being of people residing in rural areas. This requires meaningful two-way communication between rural residents and government authorities so as to create awareness on needs in rural areas and also mobilize support for rural development oriented projects. One of the ways of achieving effective communication aimed at rural development is through rural community newspapers.
What is a community newspaper?
A community newspaper is a very essential communication tool for achieving development goals especially in developing countries. It is a locally-oriented newspaper that primarily typically focuses on city neighborhoods, individual suburbs or small towns, rather than metropolitan, state, national or world news. It is crucial to rural development. One of the branches of the print media industry that focuses on rural development is rural community newspaper. Countries where rural community newspaper exists use this channel to establish a two-way communication channel that fosters participatory development. A community newspaper could be focused on an urban based or rural community. The interest of this article is rural community based and focused newspapers.
What is rural community newspaper?
A rural community newspaper is a publication owned and operated by people in the rural community. This is a newspaper basically committed to serving the information needs of a particular community. It a publication characterized by community ownership, access, participation, dominance of local content and targeted at development of rural audience members.
A rural community newspaper is a communication tool at the fore front of mobilizing the rural populace for participation in the political process and other development purposes. A community newspaper carries the readers (particular rural dwellers) along by providing assurance and a feeling of being part and parcel of the community. Through its contents, the rural community newspaper creates platform for people to relate in a positive way so as to reap the benefits of communal living. With specific reference to rural development programmes, the rural community newspaper plays essential role in increasing the awareness of rural dwellers and convincing them to adopt recommended ideas, technologies, practices and strategies. This is how a rural community newspaper plays its rural mobilization function.
Stakeholders in a rural community newspaper
A rural community newspaper is a people-oriented newspaper at rural level. There are stakeholders in every rural community newspaper. A stakeholder is someone or group of individuals that have vested interest in a venture or project, in this case, a rural newspaper. Stakeholders affect or can be affected by the business and this makes them crucial to the survival of that business. For the rural community newspaper, stakeholders are those affected or can be affected by the publication. They are as follows;
Employees are journalists and other staff members in a rural newspaper. They are largely members of the rural community that owns and operates the publication. They are stakeholders because the publication is targeted at improving their community. Activities of the employees affect the publication’s growth and survival. This makes them crucial stakeholders of the newspaper.
Shareholders are people who contributed resources (share capital) to start off the rural community newspaper. Since a rural community newspaper is owned by a community, the entire community has serious stake in the survival and growth of the publication. You rarely find rural community newspapers in West Africa that have share capital. Since they are primarily owned by and focused on a specific rural community, they do not register with the stock market to obtain funds by the issue of shares on to a shareholder. So you really do not have shareholders that legally own shares of the newspaper establishment. The relatively limited focus of rural community newspapers affects their ability to attract viable shares capital. Many of such investors would prefer more generally focused large urban based newspapers.
These are people who sell the newspaper. Vendors make the rural community newspaper available to readers even beyond the community. They are very essential stakeholders of the publication. These days, technology has made newspaper circulation easy, as many of them are now online. This makes it possible to reach readers across the globe interested in activities that affect a specific community.
Any newspaper without readers is as good as dead. Readers are stakeholders in a rural community newspaper that operators should seek to satisfy through informed contents. Online and offline readers patronize a newspaper to satisfy their information needs. Once they realize the newspaper cannot serve this need they are likely to withdraw. This means journalists working in a rural community newspaper should understand their audience and their information needs so as to work towards satisfying those needs. The contents of a rural community newspaper and an urban based newspaper are not the same largely due to differences in audience makeup and interests.
Advertisers patronize newspapers that provide opportunities for them to reach their actual and potential customers. The advertiser is a crucial stakeholder in any newspaper business because most print media survive on revenue from advertising. However, a number of rural community newspapers survive on sponsorships, donations and contributions from community members and supportive companies and businesses based on corporate social responsibility. This is because may of such publications are not seen as viable ways of reaching vast audiences who may be of interest to advertisers. Also, some community newspapers are circulated free of charge to readers largely because the interest of owners is to get the message as far as possible to many readers, not to make money from sales. The contents of many community newspapers are not diverse enough to attract sales that could help the newspaper survival. Despite this observation, advertisers remain crucial stakeholders in any newspaper business. A rural community newspaper with local-demand driven reporting (reporting on local contents that can hardly be found in big urban based publications) can attract attention of readers even in urban areas. This can lead to expansion of audience-base which is also an attraction to advertisers.
Rural community newspapers are crucial to the development of a nation. This is business rural development is vital in the development of an entire nation especially in Nigeria where many people reside in rural areas. Rural community newspapers foster participatory communication which is needed for successful development communication at rural level. Operators of rural community newspapers need to understand their work environment, primary focus of their newspaper and audience characteristics so as to ensure that the publications contents meet the necessary features of a typical rural community newspaper.