World Libraries

Nigerian news magazines and their importance: A review of recent literature

floral device Abstract

This article reviews some recent works on the history, number, and importance of news magazines in regard to Nigerian public libraries. It discusses the fears of publishers of news magazines in Nigeria. It concludes that Nigerian news magazines are as desirable in libraries as any other material. This article also recommends use surveys of news magazines in Nigerian academic libraries to determine their relevance to patrons.

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Magazines constitute an important source of information in literate societies. Their importance lies in the current information they carry. This information keeps the readers informed of current events as well as serving to educate and entertain. The news magazines published in Nigeria are general interest titles intended for a mass audience, including both the general public and academics.

Nigeria publishes a number of magazines. Ehonwa (1992, 13) [2] reveals that by the end of 1990, the country boasted at least ten weekly magazines and a similar number of monthlies and bi–monthlies. Another dozen similar publications exist to serve special interest groups. A typical Nigerian news magazine is comprised of articles, stories, and features. This gives magazines an advantage over books which are designed to be read from cover to cover; a magazine can be read in its entirety or bit by bit. They also carry information in various subjects. Coverage includes humanistic subjects such as philosophy, psychology, music, language, commerce, business, sociology, and education. Nigerian news magazines are particularly rich in terms of the information they carry in the social sciences, and humanistic subjects (Afolabi, 1991, 36) [1].

floral device History

Omu (1978) [9] wrote the book entitled Press and Politics in Nigeria, 1880–1937. This book gives an account of the evolution and development of newspapers in Nigeria. There is no record indicating the history of news magazine publishing in Nigeria between the periods covered by this book. However, evidence from the literature reveals that Newswatch magazine pioneered the era of news magazine publishing in Nigeria [4] (Newswatch, 22 January 1990, 3). This reveals that the history of news magazine publishing in Nigeria can be traced to mid–1980s; specifically, Newswatch came into existence on 28 January 1985. others, like African Concord, African Guardian, Tell, and the News hit newstands later. This shows that the birth of news magazine as a vehicle of communication in Nigeria did not come until the latter part of the twentieth century.

floral device Too many magazines

In spite of the recent history of news magazine publishing in Nigeria, there are numerous in circulation. Judging by their numbers, magazines are popular with publishers. One news magazine publisher is of the view that the market has not been saturated at any one time [10] (Tell, 1991, 52). Now and then, there is a new one on the newsstands. Giving reasons to support this claim, the publisher says

The level of awareness and taste of the reading public is changing, the demand and thirst for information is on the high, and getting more than just ordinary ... there is a need to address the situation by providing imformation and service required or necessary to meet the demands of today.

floral device  Importance of new magazines

Okafor (1987, 10) [6], writing on newspapers and magazines, points out that they owe their being to people’s desire to know about themselves, their government, and their economy. According to Okafor, newspapers and magazines form the chief instrument of communication through which the people debate problems that trouble them and their views on public issues. In his discussion of magazine censorship in Nigeria, Olorunsola (1993, 41) [7] reveals that Nigerian news magazines contain articles on issues that affect the people, such as business, culture, international relations, economics, sports, and national issues prevalent at a particular time.

The importance and usefulness of news magazines has prompted the Indexing Research Group of the Department of Library Science in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, to start the publication of the Nigerian Magazines Index (1989) [5]. The Nigerian Magazines Index is international in its coverage. This is because the news magazines it indexes are international in their coverage of the news published. It facilitates the easy retrieval of information by users in the same way the Times Index helps in locating information or articles in British newspapers. The Index consists of alphabetically arranged subject headings with their bibliographic records. Names of people, associations, companies, institutions, and places also serve as subject headings.

To determine the importance and use of news magazines in academic libraries, Olorunsola (1996) [8] conducted a survey of the use of news magazines at the University of Ilorin Library. The survey identified the usefulness of news magazines, as follows:

  1. A majority of the users of the news magazine collection are students, and findings revealed that users from 25 of the 47 academic departments in the University consulted the material.
  2. News magazines are a library by their own right. Patrons have found the collection of great help in the areas of leisure/recreation, assignments, research, and current awareness.
  3. Users have a good impression of the service and staff attached to the news magazine collection.
  4. Users consult more than one news magazine, and also read more than one column in the various magazines.

This has shown that news magazines are useful in the academic community. For students, researchers, and faculty to be well–informed about current events, they need to read a variety of news magazines containing current information. The knowledge gained from reading news magazines helps to be build a whole man.

floral device Fears of magazine publishers

In a major advertisement jointly signed by the editors of two notable news magazines in Nigeria, the following have been highlighted:

Sometime in 1994, 15,000 copies of the Quality magazine was impounded. On Sunday 16 May 1993, government security agents seized 40,000 copies of Tell magazine — two weeks later 70,000 copies of Tell were also seized and probably destroyed. Before the Tell incident, the News had suffered a similar loss of 30,000 copies of its 5 April 1993 edition.

Reasons for the seizures had been because the news magazines have been critical of the government’s lapses and reversals in firm policy promises. It is obvious that these documented instances do not exhaust all actual — or even reported — instances of proscriptions and seizures. This hostile attitude of government and its security agents towards news magazine publishers is not conducive to the free flow of information in Nigeria.

The cost of newsprint in Nigeria affects the production of magazines, and this in turn affects the subscription price of magazines. Mohammed (1989, 56) [3] says the publishing industry for quite some time has had to face crippling problems such as shortage of raw materials and escalating costs. According to him, the advent of the Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP) in 1986 has made prices of major production materials to go up by more than 500 percent. The analysis shows that the cost of local newsprint from Oku Iboku rose from N965 per tonne in 1986 to N6,500 per tonne in January, 1989. The prices of newsprint, especially, are inseparably tied to the fluctuating value of the naira. Publishing in Nigeria has therefore become a game in which only the fittest can survive.

As the escalating cost of serials has forced many libraries in Nigeria to prune their serial lists in the past, so has the high cost of news magazines made some libraries cut their magazine lists, while some libraries have suspended subscriptions. The annual subscription price of Newswatch in 1985 was N78 but has now risen to N3,640.

floral device  Conclusion

The various works reviewed, individually and collectively, have shown the place of news magazines in Nigeria. Each, in different ways, shows the relevance of the material to the general public and library users. The review has also shown that the importance attached to magazines led to the publication of an index. The literature review has equally revealed the problems facing magazine publishers — the cost of raw materials for production and constant proscription and seizure by government agents. These acts are a threat to the educational and intellectual development of the entire nation.

The author wishes to recommend that academic libraries in Nigeria conduct user studies to determine the place of Nigerian news magazines in their libraries.

floral device Notes

1. Afolabi, M., “Planning Factors Essential In Indexing Nigerian Newspapers and Magazines,” Nigerian Library & Information Science Review 9–1 (May 1991): 35–36.

2. Ehonwa, O.L., “Thou Shall Not Say...,” Liberty 3–1 (1992): 13–14.

3. Mohammed, Yakuba, “A Long Walk from a Step,” Newswatch (4 September 1989): 56.

4. “Newswatch At Five,” Newswatch (22 January 1990): 3.

5. Nigerian Magazines Index (Zaria: Department of Library Science, A.B.U., 1989).

6. Okafor, E.E., “Gaps In Newspaper Files,” Nigerian Periodicals Review 1–2 (1987): 10.

7. Olorunsola, R., “A Sketch of Censorship In Nigeria,” Library Review 42–3 (1993): 41.

8. Olorunsola, R., The Importance and Use of Nigerian News Magazines at the University of florin Library (Ibadan: University of Ibadan, 1996), unpublished M.L.S. Project.

[9] Omu, Fred I. A., Press and Politics In Nigeria, 1880-1937 (London: Longman, 1978).

[10]Tell 25 (30 Sept. 1991): 52.

© 1997 Olorunsola.

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