ASSESSMENT OF AUDIENCE KNOWLEDGE AND UTILIZATION OF NEWSPAPER EDITORIALS IN SOUTH-SOUTH NIGERIA
The mass media through information gathering and dissemination do shape public opinion and contribute to efforts at attaining an enlightened citizenry which is one of the indices of a developed society. The running of newspaper editorials is one crucial way the media carry out their functions. The newspaper editorial is all-embracing, being both a news story, an interpretative piece and the opinion of the newspaper meant to educate and guide the public on topical issues. But unlike news stories, sports reports and some other newspaper contents, one hardly hears of reference being made to the editorial among newspaper readers. Knowing that the readership of a work is as important as the content of the work, this study set out to determine the extent of audience readership and acceptance of newspaper editorials in South-South Nigeria. The aim is to popularize the newspaper editorial and increase its readership among public members. With the use of a questionnaire, the study surveyed 372 respondents purposively selected from Port Harcourt, Asaba and Benin City to represent the newspaper audience in the South-South zone. The study found that only a few people know about and do read the editorials of newspapers in the zone even though the extent of newspaper readership is generally high in the area. The study, among other things, recommends that both newspaper houses and the relevant government agencies should engage in vigorous periodic sensitization programmes to raise public awareness about the editorial and that newspapers should do more to make the editorial page more catchy to newspaper readers through the use of colours and other designs.