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

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

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


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

Preliminary Page(s)

  • Title page
  • Certification page
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents

Chapter One:


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

Chapter Two:

Literature Review

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

Chapter Three:


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

Chapter Four:

Presentation And Analysis Of Data

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

Chapter Five:

Summary Of Findings, Conclusion And Recommendations

  • 5.1 Summary of findings
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.3 Recommendations
  • References
  • Appendix
  • Questionnaires

Chapter One


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.

INFLUENCE: (Conceptual)

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

INFLUENCE: (Operational)

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

SENSATIONAL: (Operational)

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

SENSATIONAL: (Conceptual)

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

HEADLINES: (Operational)

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

HEADLINES: (conceptual)

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

NEWSPAPER: (Operational)

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

NEWSPAPER: (conceptual)

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)

READERSHIP: (operational)

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

READERSHIP: (conceptual)

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

Chapter Five

Summary Of Findings, Conclusion And Recommendations

5.1 Summary Of Findings

The problem tackled in this study is the use of sensational headlines in newspaper production in Nigeria, which is against the professional ethics of journalism, and further elaborates whether the use of sensational headlines influence newspaper readership of which sun newspaper was used as a case study.

The study established through its findings that sensational headlines actually influenced reader to read a particular newspaper. As regarding the sun newspaper which was sensational headlines mostly on its front pages to attract readers.

The study also revealed that sensational journalism increase newspaper readership, but not for a long time. Especially when readers noticed that some stories exaggerate and other sensational headlines are used by the newspaper, as in the case of sun newspaper. More so through this study, it was also found out that readers felt bad about the use of sensational headline and said fraudulent. Bearing on the foregoing, the research discovered that the use of bolder headlines on the front pages of the sun newspaper, as well as its general content, currency and in-depth reporting among other factors, help in building readers preferences to read the newspaper.

Finally, code sheet was used to record the number and types of sensational headlines in the sun newspaper, done for four consecutive months that is, from March, April and June 2014. The results explain that sun newspaper cast sensational headlines, especially in the way they cast their front pages headlines. The questionnaire questions were designed further to find out readers mind on the influence of sensational headlines on newspaper readership. The research questions were answered based on the data gathered and analyzed.

5.2 Conclusion

Undoubtedly, sensational journalism increase newspaper readership of the sun, as well as other newspapers. In view of the findings. It is necessary to note that the influence of sensational headlines on newspaper was discovered as readers fraud and unacceptable, Korgah (2007), expresses that the motivation and object of this deliberate resort to an unethical practice is usually a financially consideration. However, in the case of individual journalist, there is usually a need to understand the official interests of the owners. In other instances, it is usually a case of appeasing certain narrow and parochial interest. But all of these practices go a long way toward vitiating the atmosphere of trust that should exist between the media and the public.

This on the other hand puts to series questions on median credibility. Therefore, it is imperative that necessary measures on the part of media practitioners, especially those in the newspaper sector, should be put in place to advance the recommendations below.

5.3 Recommendations

The imperativeness of the press cannot be over emphasized, as such print journalism which is the art of gathering editorial and non-editorial materials by professional writers with the aim of selling it in newspaper’s to audience members. Who needs them to drench their hunger for information. Either to widen their horizon, or use it for formulating economic, social and political policies. This research study which is limited to the influence of sensational headlines on newspapers, using sun newspaper as a case study. However it was discovered that sensational headlines did influence readers to read newspapers. As in the case of sun newspaper. Bearing on this, the researcher recommends that.

  1. Newspaper practitioners should remain mindful of the ethics of professionalism when dealing with news dissemination especially in the print media sphere.
  2. Again, it is imperative that social responsibility philosophy of the press which is being operated in the country should be adequately understood by print media practitioners. This in the long run will assist them serve the audience better.
  3. The researcher is also of the suggestion that another study replicating the present one on a wider sphere, should be conducted to involve more newspaper.

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