Influence Of Sensational Headlines On Newspapers (A Case Study Of Sun Newspaper)

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Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication


This research project is dedicated to God Almighty, who through his infinite mercies made it possible for me to write this project successfully.


I am grateful to all those who contributed immensely towards making this research project a reality.
Firstly, I acknowledge the support and motivation from my parents both morally and financially.

Secondly, to my project supervisor, Mr. Victor O. Alozie a distinguished Mass Communication lecturer, for his guidance and tolerance to my inabilities, this acted as catalyst to the aesthetic nature of this research project work.
Thirdly, my appreciation also goes to all the lecturers in the Mass Communication Department, who through their academic coaching added a spark to my academic pursuit.

Finally, without much haste, I cannot forget to acknowledge my friends, well-wishers, fellow communicators and the Ogelinks Concepts for their divergent contributions towards the success of this research project work. May God in his riches bless you all Amen!!!


The research was on the influence of sensational headlines on newspapers, a case study of sun newspaper. As a matter of fact content analysis and survey research methods were used for this research work. Content analysis was chosen to analyse the sensational headlines in sun newspaper, the researcher used newspaper readers in strategic points in Owerri metropolis, that is IMSU junction, Ikenegbu and Douglas road for this project questionnaire was used to record the sensational headlines on sun newspaper for four months representing 120 editions of the paper also copies were distributed to the readers who were considered to be in best positions to give useful information in line with the study. The findings of this study reveal that sensational headlines attract newspaper readers, the newspapers use sensational headlines mostly on their front pages to attract readers.

Also it was gathered that sensational journalism increased newspaper readership not for a long time, especially when readers noticed that some stories exaggerated and other sensational headline are used by the newspaper. The researcher found out that readers react badly to the use of sensational headlines and said it is fraudulent.

It was also discovered that the use of boldly written headlines on the front page of the paper, its content, currency and in-depth reporting are factors that helped in building peoples preferences to read the sun newspaper.

Table Of Contents

  • Title page i
  • Certification page ii
  • Dedication iii
  • Acknowledgement iv
  • Abstract v
  • Table of contents vi

Chapter One:Introduction

  • 1.1 Background of study 1
  • 1.2 Statement of problems 3
  • 1.3 Objective of study 3
  • 1.4 Research questions 3
  • 1.5 Scope of the study 4
  • 1.6 Limitations of the study 4
  • 1.7 Definitions of terms 4

Chapter Two:Literature Review

  • 2.1 Historical background of sensational Headlines 6
  • 2.2 Challenges facing newspaper industry 7
  • 2.3 Newspaper ownership and editorial influence 9
  • 2.4 history of sun newspaper 11
  • 2.5 Theoretical frameworks 14

Chapter Three:Methodology

  • 3.1 Research design 15
  • 3.2 Area of study 15
  • 3.3 Population of the study 15
  • 3.4 Sample and sampling procedure 15
  • 3.5 Sources of data 16
  • 3.6 Instrument for data collection 16
  • 3.7 Validity of Instrument 16
  • 3.8 Administration of the instrument 17
  • 3.9 Method of data analysis 17

Chapter Four:Presentation And Analysis Of Data

  • 4.1 Data analysis 18
  • 4.2 Response to the questionnaire questions 21
  • 4.3 Answering the research question 24

Chapter Five:Summary Of Findings, Conclusion And Recommendations

  • 5.1 Summary of findings 26
  • 5.2 Conclusion 27
  • 5.3 Recommendations 27
  • References 29
  • Appendix 30
  • Questionnaires 31

Chapter One:Introduction

1.1 Background Of The Study

Newspaper readership is as old as journalism itself. Print journalism started far back 1620. In England, when English country gentlemen used to employ, correspondents to write for them from London about court proceedings and events occurring in the town. Ogunsiji (2007 P.3). More so, in 1990, newspaper surfaced in America. Both American and English early newspapers were devices for organizing gossip. During that period, there was no page planning and news stories were not given any prominence nor was there indications as to where to find them. Datelines were used to head stories instead of headlines.

As time gradually moved on, more and better newspapers were established. The main contents of such newspapers were reports of debates in parliament. After sometimes, following the decline in newspaper readership. The popularity of press also declined in both England and America and circulation of newspaper dropped, as Ogunsiji (2007, p.1) noted, publishers and editors were not happy about the development. They decide to adopt new approach to see if the approach could increase the circulation of newspaper.

These laid credence to the origin of sensational or yellow journalism, which is a type of editorial bias in mass media which events and topics in news stories and pieces are over- hyped to increased viewership or readership numbers. The sensational journalism embraces reports on sex, divorces, gossip, romance, scandal, kidnapping, fire, war, murder and rape. There was also the use of banner headlines and exaggeration of news stories etc.

In Nigeria, though the missionary newspapers did not achieve much in terms of being in business for long period of time, securing a large circulation and exhibiting professional journalistic expertise, they helped immensely to increase the level of education and social awareness of the generality of the people they were serving. Alozie (2005). On this note the emergence of modem newspapers in Nigeria adopted some of the features of sensational journalism or yellow journalism, such as large headlines, illustration and reliance on cartoon and colour. Ukozor (2006). They adopted sensational journalism without considering is ethical implications.

Nevertheless, unarguably, the aim of every newspaper house is to make profit, so as to remain in business. And also to perform corporate social responsibility of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Publishers or editors see what ever influences the audience as a priority. The adoption of sensational headlines by Nigeria newspapers has further become a tradition. Ukozor (2003, P.24), also noted that traces of these popular features of sensational or yellow journalism still remains practiced even by today’s best selling newspaper, such features as large headlines, bid front-page pictures, and extensive use of photos, illustrations and cartoons.

However, most of these features of sensational journalism are prominently being used by most Nigeria newspaper today. The question is how the adoption of sensational headlines has by editor’s influences newspapers, it readership and circulation, as in the case of sun newspapers.

1.2 Statement Of The Problem

The sun newspaper is one of the Nigeria’s most widely read newspapers. The paper has several sensational headlines written in sensational format. Although sensational headline is an acute problem of exaggeration and the act is against the ethnics of journalism. Other newspapers in Nigeria are also in this practice to this effect, some screaming headlines contradict the content of the stories and yet they are presented in very bold type faces, in order to lure readers and this is against morality and the society.

What is the influence of sensational headlines on newspapers, its readership and circulation? Is the use of sensational headline by sun newspaper as a result of its editorial polices and profit making motives? Why is it difficult for newspaper in Nigeria to phase out the use of sensational headlines? These and other questions are the issues that this study intends to look into.

1.3 The Objectives Of The Study

The objectives of the study are as follows.

  1. To find out if sensational headlines influence newspaper readership.
  2. To know how the readers react to sensational headlines.
  3. To know whether sensational journalism can increase newspaper readership.

1.4 Research Questions

The research questions of the study are as follows:

  1. Do sensational headlines influence newspaper readership of sun newspaper?
  2. How do readers react to sensational headlines in the sun newspaper?
  3. Can sensational journalism increase newspaper readership?

1.5 Scope Of The Study

The researcher will focus on the influence of sensational headlines on sun newspaper readership only. The study will be conducted within Owerri Municipal, because it is where you find newspaper stands. Where people gather to read or buy newspaper.

1.6 Limitations Of The Study

This research work is likely to face some limitations, just like any other human endeavour such as the time fame with which this research project work is expected to be completed; its financial materials constraints will also limit this study to some extent.

1.7 Definition Of Terms

This embraces the operational and conceptual meaning of the following terms.


The power or the ability to affect beliefs or actions. (Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary).


It is the ability of newspaper headlines to attract reader’s attention to read a particular newspaper.


A way of getting newspaper readers to read news stories in newspaper due to its fancifully written headlines.


Causing great surprise, excitement or interest (Longman English Contemporary Dictionary)


A word or group of words prominently positioned in newspaper, which reads see first before reading news stories.


It is that bold caption of a news story written in a few words which draws attention to the study Alozie (2009, p. 109).


A publication which carries current public news other written features and illustrations, printed daily of periodically for sale.


Is an unbound printed publication issued at regular intervals which presents information in words, often supplemented with pictures sandman et al (1976) in Alozie (2009; p.3)


individuals or groups who expose themselves to news contents in newspapers.


The percentage or number of persons who reads a publication or advertisement (Dictionary of Mass Communication 2005).

I bet you, the complete material is fully loaded. This is just an excerpt. The Material is in MS-Word Format which you can easily edit and is comprehensive for a complete research work for this topic

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How to nail it on the head during your project defence

You are through with writing that project. Now what?

You have found yourself at that point where you have to defend what you have written. Of course you have to stand in front of your supervisor and other literary personalities to prove that you know what you wrote in your project paper. Unfortunately, the more you think about it, the more it looks like you are about to face a legion. It is not a war. But the emotion of dread welling up inside of you makes it look like one. So now you are asking yourself questions.

  • How am I going to start?
  • I hope I will do well enough to get an A.

You really want to nail it, but you need to come to terms with exactly how to get everything in perfect control. Especially your emotions of fear that seem to make a wreck of you every time you think about public speaking.
So here is the deal. I want to help you avoid that feeling that would ruin your precious moment if you dare to let it. And we are going to do it together.

I am going to highlight some very important tips to help you get in control for you to be comfortable enough to move from that feeling of DREAD to CONFIDENT; and making an awesome Impression for that great rating your supervisors should be giving to you so freely.

Consider these tips as you prepare for your defence. We will be taking them one after the other so here we go.

Watch Your Body Language And Keep It Confident:

Can you tell that a person is falling apart if they look confident? … If I can second guess you rightly, am sure you answered no to that question. Remind yourself that you need to come out that way. Now this might seem like a huge big deal when you are dealing with the foreboding. Maintaining a poise of confidence is very important. So find your most comfortable position, sitting or standing and draw up your body. You must exude confidence. It is something you need to do for yourself. People can only see what you allow your body language to show. So you must endeavour to put that out. Remember the story of David and Goliath? … At the end of your defence day, you want to be David.

Dress In Your Most Comfortable And Impressive:

Am sure this one is a no brainer. However I must highlight that you choose comfortable pieces. You don’t want to look so good and yet look like you were forced to wear something that does not belong to you. It’s great to ensure that as impressive as your clothes are on you, that they are also very comfortable.

Speak With Authority:

Going hand to hand with that aura of confidence is your most powerful asset:your words. If you look that confident, your words must not come out like whimpers. To be able to pull this off, you definitely need to speak as deliberately as possible in expressing yourself. Let them also hear what they see.

Use, Your Gestures:

I have often found this to come to my rescue in dealing with shyness and conveying my confidence. Usually it gives you an edge to also drive home your point. You must, however, ensure that you do not over use it. It doesn’t mean that your hands should be flying all over the place. That would be absolutely unnecessary. If you do this well, after a while you will realize that you are not as self-conscious as you used to be at the very start. For most situations, it would have completely disappeared altogether; leaving a really confident you talking.

Have A Good Opening And Closing Line:

Make sure you have perfected a good opening line. You should also be armed with a good closing line too. Try and rehearse it to a friend. If for the first time you presented it, your friend does not say “wow, that’s beautiful” or something like that; just know you need to keep refining it until you get the perfect line. Both opening and closing lines will go a long way in how impressed your panel gets to rate you high.

Make Sure You Know Your Work:

Certainly you should understand how important it is to know your own work from start to finish. Not having in-depth knowledge of your own work is tantamount to a suicide mission. Why should you kill yourself?
When all is said and done, this is what you came to defend in the first place. You should know your work from A to Z.

Prepare For The Questions:

Now this part is truly essential. You must be sure you do not floor all the good work you did on your presentation by not answering correctly. You must pay attention to the questions you are asked to be sure you will give the right answer. Many people get it wrong at this stage and spoil their good presentation. When you do not understand any question do endeavour to ask the person to expatiate what they mean before you answer.

These tips are by no means exhaustive, but applying these tips will give you some necessary advantage you need for a great outcome. Of course that outcome would mean that you eventually earn all your points on this project.

The structure of a good project work

Undergraduate projects in Nigeria is a prerequisite for graduation amongst Nigerian tertiary students who will which to obtain bachelors degree in their respective courses of study such as accounting, banking and finance, business administration and a host of others. Writing an undergraduate project in Nigeria for final year students entails a lot both financially and otherwise. Being able to develop any final year project depends on getting a researchable topic whether it is Accounting Undergraduate project topics, Banking and Finance research topics or banking and finance project topics and materials and it all requires diligent hard work of students who are willing to develop best undergraduate projects in Nigeria and graduate in flying colors.

A typical Undergraduate project in Nigerian tertiary institutions can be said to be divided into five or six chapters depending on the format of the school and course of study which are

1. Introduction

The introduction of an undergraduate project states the main research problem and research argument. What precisely the study is all about and why it is important. It looks at the originality of the research work and how it will fill the gap in other studies. Justification for a research undergraduate topic should not be lengthy before it has been explicitly stated.

Below are the contents in chapter one of an undergraduate research project which includes;

  • Background of the study,
  • Statement of the problem,
  • Objectives or aims of the study,
  • The research questions,
  • Research hypothesis,
  • Significance of the study,
  • Scope of the study,
  • Limitations of the study and
  • Operational definition of terms.

2. Literature review

Literature review of any undergraduate research work, be it business administration project topics or Economics project topics just to mention a few is very critical to securing a high grade in one’s project work. The literature review of a research process uncovers what other writers have written about the student’s topic. A student’s undergraduate research work should include a discussion or review of what is known about the subject and how that knowledge was acquired. The review could conclude with a brief summary of the literature and its implications. The contents of the literature review are the theoretical review, conceptual framework, empirical review and summary of literature review.

3. Research Methodology

This section includes a description of the research methods used in the undergraduate research work such as the sample size, data collection methods, measurement instruments, research data analysis procedures and the population from which the sample was selected.  This section also describes the method used in selecting the sample or samples, validation and reliability of the instruments used in the research work. There are different research statistical techniques used in undergraduate research work such as SPSS, e-views etc.

4. Results & Discussion

This section presents and discusses the data analysis results used in an undergraduate research work, the results of each analysis is being summarized, tabulated, and then discussed for each research question.  Then for each research hypothesis, the statistical test of significance selected and applied to the data is briefly described, followed by a statement indicating whether the hypothesis was supported or not supported.  In presenting the result analyses/summary in an undergraduate project tables and figures and or graph are used to add clarity to the presentation.

5. Summary, Conclusions And Recommendations

This section summarizes the findings of the study in an easy to understand manner.  It also explains the practical implications of those findings, and points to recommended directions for future research in that area.


This is where every source cited in the undergraduate research work is being included. Every undergraduate research work must be properly referenced for its authenticity.

Choosing A Good Project / Research Topic

Students in Nigerian universities these days wish to choose a very simple project topic/material. There is no issue choosing a simple project topic; the only problem is your ability to choose a good project or research topic that your supervisor will easily approve for you.

Most project supervisors really want to see how good his or her project student understands his or her surrounding through the kind of topic he or she chooses for their project work.

There are some project topic that are not reject-able; for instance in Nigeria of today; what do you think is the major issue on ground now?

If a project student can choose or craft a topic on the effect of dollar increment on the economy of Nigeria. Such project topic will be very interesting to write on.

Now what are the qualities of a good project topic?

  1. The materials for the project topic must be easily assessable.
  2. The project topic itself must be meaningful.
  3. The variables must be able to give a clear aim of the project topic.

What do I mean by variable?

Well I am deriving my point from the area of project writing; the variables here are those main words in the project topic.

Like the above project topic; the effect of dollar increment on the economy of Nigeria. You can see the main variables that really define this project topic are:dollar, increment and economy.

Before you present your topic to your project supervisor, first of all understand your project topic, and then secondly try to do some research for your topic to see if at least you can get up to 60% of what you need to write the complete project.

I said that above because you might have a very nice topic that the materials are not available online and there are no books as regard the topic; in this case the project topic becomes difficult for you even though the topic is catchy.

What do I mean by your topic being assessable?

Well what I mean is very simple and easy to understand. Simply pick your project topic, type it on google and see if you will have at least a good background for the topic you are writing on.

If you can have a good background for your project topic and you can understand the problem associated with the project topic, then I believe the aim of the project is not far-fetched.



Samuel Obiora Blessed is the CEO and founder of Samphina Academy ( a.k.a Nigeria Students Media, the youngest engineering graduate of Federal Polytechnic Nekede in 2017 and the engine brain behind this great platform. He is the man behind the scene, filled with many potentials, a musician as well as a pro developer with the interest of Nigerian students at heart.

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