Semiu Bello, PhD, Department of Mass Communication, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Nigeria Lai Oso, PhD, School of Communication, Lagos State University, Ojo, Nigeria
The mass media have become central to how citizens define issues and events that happen around them. We live in a highly mediatised society and as such, journalism occupies a prime place as the main popular convenor and conveyor of information and images that nurture the “picture in our heads.”
Research also indicates that people’s understanding of public issues, including but not limited to, politics, wars, conflicts, famines and the environment should rather be regarded as entirely dependent on layers of media representations and framings through newspapers, documentaries, films, magazines, television series or websites. Therefore, in this study, the authors examined how four Nigerian national newspapers responded to and reported the inter-ethnic conflict that occurred between the Yoruba and Hausa ethnic groups in Sagamu, South-Western Nigeria, which incidentally was recorded as the first inter-ethnic conflict in Nigeria after the enthronement of democracy in 1999. Anchored on social construction of news and with a quantitative content, the study found a low coverage of the 1999 inter-ethnic conflict. While the study found that the conflict was constructed around mistrust, economic loss and loss of lives, it was further found that government officials, community leaders and the elite class contributed to the early and timely resolution of the 1999 Yoruba-Hausa conflict.
Given the potential of newspapers in mitigating conflicts, this study recommends that Nigerian newspapers, like other mass media in Nigeria, should play the role of harbinger of peace and reconciliation during any conflict.
Key words: Newspaper, conflict, conflict reporting, news construction, ethnicity