Eribo Studies Media Focus on Corruption in Nigeria
By Nancy McGillicuddy
Festus Eribo published his first newspaper, “The Torch,” when he was 17-years old and “The Sword,” magazine at age 19 in high school in Benin City, Nigeria.
|Communications Professor Festus Eribo, winner of one of ECU’s Five-Year Creative Activity and Research Awards, concentrates his study on press freedoms and media bias. (Photo by Erica Plouffe Lazure)
“We didn’t have any publications for the students — nobody knew what was going on,” said Eribo, a professor of communications at East Carolina University. “So I gatecrashed into writing and editing. I still have a copy of my 1969 magazine here in Greenville.”
Over the years, Eribo’s passion to write, research, teach, and communicate has brought him many honors, most recently ECU’s 2005 Five-Year Creative Activity and Research Award.
“Festus has made immense contributions to the field of communication,” wrote colleague Bill Jong-Ebot with Florida Memorial College, in one of many nominations Eribo received for the award.
“His work has been original and enriching to communication practitioners and scholars worldwide. He has traveled extensively and has witnessed firsthand the media systems he has written about.”
Eribo, who studies issues of press freedom and the use of communication for sustainable development and social change in Africa, has taught at ECU since 1989 and is a founding member of the School of Communication. He serves on the editorial board of two journals and has published five books and more than 30 articles or book chapters in the past 16 years.
Eribo started his communications career after earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism in 1979 from St. Petersburg State University in Russia. After working a five-year stint as the principal information officer at the Governor’s Office in Bendel State, Nigeria, Eribo had a choice to make: stay in Nigeria or continue his education. His decision was based on corruption — avoiding it.
Eribo won a government scholarship to study anywhere in the world and he chose the University of Wisconsin-Madison out of three American universities which offered him admission to graduate school. Now as a professor in ECU’s School of Communication, Eribo has made a career out of studying press freedom, development, corruption and communication. The classes he teaches at ECU include mass media ethics, international news communication and international pubic relations.
His publications range in topics from the use of the Internet in Nigeria to freedom of the press in Africa.
An oil-producing country in western Africa, Nigeria’s national newspapers often headline the latest government corruptions. Eribo’s latest research compares how the media in Nigeria report on government corruption versus HIV and AIDS. Eribo said there is an indirect correlation between them. With HIV/AIDS infection rates in Nigeria about one percent of the population, according to the CIA World fact book, Eribo wants to see more reporting on the true epidemic nature of the disease and the search for a cure.
“The main focus of the media is corruption. There is a lot written about corruption and very little written about AIDS,” Eribo said. “They should do a better job about bringing an awareness to AIDS.”
Eribo will interview Nigerian reporters and collect data based on the nation’s newspaper articles. His seminal paper on corruption in Nigeria will be presented to the World Bank Congress on Development Communication in Rome this year. He will conduct a quantitative analysis comparing the number of stories that focus on corruption to the number of stories that focus on HIV/AIDS.
Eribo hopes the outcome of his latest research will not only shed light on corruption and the growing public health concern, but will also spark new trends in training and preparing journalists to report on emerging and relevant issues.
“I want them to do more investigative reporting,” he said. “Africa needs a free, dynamic, committed, and vibrant press to create awareness and diffuse innovations in every community.”
Eribo will discuss his research at noon on March 30 in Bate 1500. Fellow award-winners will also present: Frank Yang will speak at noon on April 6, and Lynis G. Dohm on April 20 (both in Bate 1500). Joseph Chalovich presented his research on March 9. Yang’s research is described below. Future issues of Pieces of Eight will detail Chalovich and Dohm’s research agendas.