The word “Press” sums up the activities of the wide field of the mass media. The word “press” also means rigid moulds, prints, pictures or symbols which remain static and firm, for the purpose of preserving events, occurrences and experiences for history or human remembrance. However, words which are the tools of the world of the press, press everything into firm and rigid forms only, but real understanding of what words convey demands something else. Understanding rarely comes with words only.
A layman’s understanding of the role of the mass media is usually expressed as “informing, educating, conscientising and entertaining the public”. It would follow that reporting of news events is just one narrow area of what the mass media engage in. Similarly, cartoons, satires and other comic and light-hearted dramas can deliver important messages in some clever ways, to amuse the public. Karl Marx referred to the mass media long ago as collective propagandists, agitators and organizers”. Rightly speaking, they are actually instruments of social mobilization, control and conscientisation.
Foundations of social development stand on the pillars of people’s awakening, education, organization or mobilization, people’s empowerment via information dissemination and people’s action for positive change and development. Strategies for actions towards change and development would include conscientisation and education of the masses, transformation of people’s orientation from a state of docility and gullibility towards mass awareness and alertness. Social services, charity, welfare and reform programmes can also be promoted by the mass media in various ways.
The mass media in Nigeria have been accused of being neck-deep in politics but offering little in the task of fostering and promoting development. The task of promoting development demands forcing the masses out of a “box” in which a majority of the people live, move and have their being. Such state of docility comes about through a process of programming in which various organizations and interest groups are involved, resulting in narcotisation of the consciousness of the masses or indoctrination.
Practitioners in the mass media must update their knowledge in the facts and theories of development, in addition to the skill in news gathering and reporting. Without being a “Jack-of-all-trades”, journalists interested to bring some development via pen and paper should acquaint themselves with how the masses can be oriented towards the task of development. Through the social impact model of reporting, a development-oriented journalist can bear the following facts in mind.
Development is a continuous and comprehensive process involving changes in individuals and society with reference to expansion of consciousness and world-view. It is important to know that each person lives and experiences absolutely according to his own nature, because, people see everything differently.
Human consciousness is not static, rather, it is meant to grow and change according to the maturity and nature of individuals. Thus the world is seen and experienced in millions of different ways by human beings. The same place and same events can impress different experiences in people, depending on their own particular nature.
These facts would mean that development is an indigenous affair rather than a uniform process. There is no equality in the growth, maturity and the pace of advancement of individual awareness. Those who seek to run before they can walk usually fall and would be compelled to repeat steps that were jumped in haste, vanity or ignorance. Late Chief Awolowo told Nigerians that “only the deep can call to the deep” because, as you call it into the wood, so it echoes! No one can give what he does not have!
Development is not only a maturing but also a learning process which, despite differences and uniqueness of individuals, must embrace both material and spiritual advancement. One lesson to emphasise in the process is that development cannot be one-sided. Like Oliver Goldsmith would say: “I ll fares the land, to hastening ill, a prey, where wealth accumulates but men decay”.
A part of the role of the mass media in the promotion of development is to emphasise the fact that issues of life cannot be understood solely by words but by an expanded consciousness. Life is mobile and everything must move along, according to its nature.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, PH.