|dc.description.abstract||The prevalence of crime in Nigeria and its aftermath on the socio-economic status
and the well-being of the people, appear to have defied all efforts at ensuring safety of
lives and property in Nigeria. Previous studies on media coverage of crime have
established the presence of crime and fear of crime in the audience. This study, adopting
the Uses & Gratifications and the Social Responsibility theories, investigated Nigerian
newspapers' coverage of crime and readers ' information seeking behaviour to gratify
their safety information need.
The study adopted mixed-methods research techniques in quantitative (survey
and content analysis) and qualitative forms (content analysis, survey, and in-depth
interviews) to create data. Using constructed week sampling technique, a total of 700
issues of the selected newspapers covering a five year period (2010-2014) were sampled
for content analysis. For the survey, a self- administered questionnaire was adopted for
data collection. Data from 361 usable questionnaire items were analysed from a sample
of 384 drawn using simple random sampling techniques from a population of 55,000.
Newspapers' crime stories were content analysed in qualitative (textual) form using Ruiz
(2009) Sociological Discourse Analysis. In-depth interviews were also conducted among
sampled Lagos State residents. Data were analysed at univariate, bivariate and
multivariate levels using the SPSS software and also qualitatively.
Findings further showed that crimes such as, murder, kidnapping, and robbery
were common in Lagos State. Stories on murder were 4 7 .1 %, kidnapping/abduction
21.5% and robbery at 14.5%. Kidnapping was on the rise Kidnapped victims paid a
ransom to regain their freedom. Also, illegal possession of arms was common; policing
was found to be ineffective. Findings also showed that the selected Nigerian newspapers
reported crime stories mainly as straight news; adopted episodic reportage of crime
stories with ambiguous and often misleading headlines. Findings also revealed that
newspapers were sources of crime information; published crime stories mainly on the
inside pages; gave salience to the coverage of violent crime over property crime; and that
crime coverage educated, gratified and influenced the safety information need of the
readers. It was also revealed that readers ' frequency of reading Nigerian newspapers'
crime stories at x2 = 8.255; p = 0.041 , and direct experience of crime at x2 = 19.62; p =
0.020, showed a significant relationship on the gratification obtained by the readers.
Unlike in general information seeking, women were found to be more information
seekers about crime than men. The readers ' social demographics, gender (x2 (2) = 9.435;
p< .05); age (x2 (6) = 20.307; p< .05); educational attainment (x2 (6) = 15.681 ; p< .05);
marital status (x2 (8) = 22.544; p< .05); and monthly income (x2 (6) = 13 .018; p< .05)
were found to be significant at, low, moderate or high gratification levels.
Contrary to the widely held views of uniform effect (fear of crime) in the
audience, the study established that the social demographics of newspaper readers
positively influenced their cognitive deployment of newspapers' crime stories to gratify
their safety information need from becoming victims. It is not in every context, therefore,
that media coverage of crime creates fear in the audience. Though, the positive influence
of newspaper crime coverage on the behaviour of literate audience is being advanced, the
study has implications on the influence of such coverage on non-literate audience and by
other mass media in Nigeria.||en_US