History of Newspapers in Nigeria

The history of print media popularly called press or newspaper in Nigeria can be traced to the worldwide root which began during the Renaissance in Europe when handwritten newsletters circulated privately among merchants. These newsletters were used in passing along information about everything from wars and economic conditions to social customs and “human interest” features.

The first printed forerunners of the newspaper appeared in Germany in the late 1400’s in the form of news pamphlets or broadsides, often highly sensationalized in content. Some of the most famous of these reports are the atrocities against Germans in Transylvania perpetrated by Vlad TsepesDrakul, who became the Count Dracula of later folklore.

In the English-speaking world, the newspaper was preceded by the corantos, small news pamphlets produced only when some event worthy of notice occurred. The first successively published title was The Weekly Newes of 1622. It was followed in the 1640’s and 1650’s by a plethora of different titles in the similar newsbook format. The first true newspaper in English was the London Gazette of 1666. At that time, it was the only officially sanctioned newspaper, though many periodical titles were in print by the end of that century.

The newspaper evolved into a business model in which some pages were used for advertising which enabled the producers to subsidize the cost of printing and distributing the newspapers.

This led to some of the newspaper publishers at that time charging a low price while using advertising to make up the difference.

In recent years, the advertorial has also emerged. Advertorials are most commonly recognized as an opposite-editorial which third-parties pay a fee to have included in the paper. Advertorials commonly advertise new products or techniques, such as a new design for golf equipment, a new form of laser surgery, or weight-loss drugs. The tone is usually closer to that of a press release than of an objective news story.

History of Newspapers in Nigeria

history of newspapers in nigeria

In Nigeria, the history of print media goes as far back as the 1840s when European missionaries established community newspapers to propagate Christianity.

One of the first news publishers was “Iwe-Irohin,” which came out on November 23, 1859. The newspaper was published every fifteen days and sold for 120 cowries, which is equivalent to a penny.

It was highly patronized by the few literates in Yoruba land and the circulation of the paper was around 3,000 as at that time. The content of the newspaper was basically news of church activities as well as arrival and departure of religious dignitaries, ordinations etc.

It would later introduce stories that revolve around Abeokuta, as well as the cotton and cocoa industry. Also, the newspaper included advertisements from local firms and government agencies from 1860. Eight years later, “Iwe Irohin” was printed in two versions, one in English and the other in Yoruba.

However, during the cultural and political clashes that occurred between the Egbas and the British resulted in the expulsion of all Europeans in Egbaland subsequently the printing press was razed in 1867.

Other newspaper outfits came up after the demise of Iwe Irohin. For instance, the second Nigerian newspaper, Anglo-African was established in 1863 by Robert Campbell. It was the first paper published in Lagos. The paper was focused on African self-improvement through the utilization of Western and African systems of knowledge.

The third Nigerian Newspaper was established in 1880. It was known as The Lagos Times and Gold Coast Colony Advertiser. It was established by Mr. Richard Olamilege Beale Blaize and was edited by Mr. Andrew M. Thomas and Mojola Agbebi. It was sold for sixpence newspaper was printed every fifteen days. This paper was solely concerned with the critical issues and matters of the period.

The newspaper eventually went out of circulation on October 24, 1883; only to reappear seven years later with little or no success.

Another newspaper that played a very important role in the history of Nigerian newspaper is the West African Pilot. The motto of the newspaper was, “Show the light and the people will find the way.”

The West African Pilot which was established by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1937. This paper pioneered a general protest against the British colonial rule and resulted in the eventual attainment of independence in 1960. This powerful influence manifested by the paper led to the establishment of many newspapers, especially in the 1960s.

Another popular newspaper outfit was the New Nigerian Newspaper Limited; with its head office along Ahmadu Bello Way, Kaduna. It was established by the then-government of the Northern Region on 23rd October, 1964.

The first copies of the newspaper were issued on January 1st, 1966. Its initial name was Northern Nigerian Newspapers Limited. But when states were created out of the regions in 1964 it was changed to New Nigerian Newspapers Limited as it is known today.

Also, before the establishment of the New Nigerian Newspapers, the Northern Nigerian Government had established a Hausa language newspaper in Zaria called Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo in 1936. It had an English version, ‘Nigerian Citizen’ which emerged in 1965. A few months after the launch of this English version, the name was changed to New Nigerian and the headquarters relocated to Kaduna where it is now based.

In March 1973, the company set up the southern plant (printing machine) alongside the one in Kaduna. The simultaneous printing of the newspaper in both Kaduna and Lagos enhanced a wide circulation of the paper. When the Northern Region was divided into six states through the creation of 12 states by the Federal Government in July 1967, the ownership and management of the company were transferred to the Northern states, managed by the Interim Common Services Agency (ICSA). Then later the company was fully taken over by the Federal Government in August 1975 and placed under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Information. It was handed back to the Northern states in 2006. Hence, it is currently owned and controlled by the 19 states. At present, the company has four titles in its stable: New Nigerian, (daily) GaskiyaTafiKwabo (Hausa publication, published every Monday and Thursday) New Nigerian On Sunday and New Nigerian Weekly (published on Saturdays). New Nigerian was first published on 1st January 1966, GaskiyaTafiKwabo came on board on 1st January 1936, New Nigerian On Sunday was set up on 24th May, 1981 and New Nigerian weekly was established on February 21st, 1998.

Currently, some of the popular newspaper publishers in the country include the Punch, Vanguard, The Guardian, The Sun, Premium Times, and many others.

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