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Why Did Maslow Read the Newspaper?

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I guess a look at the topic will have you thinking, “Did Maslow ever have time to read newspapers?” Did a man so engrossed in his pursuits of the understanding of human behavior ever have the time to read something as common as a newspaper with all the new information technologies like radio and television available during his era? This work though is not about whether or not Maslow read newspaper. It is not even about Abraham Maslow but newspaper reading as a function of basic human need. The work however is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Newspapers have withstood the test of time. They were probably the first form of gathering information before the advent of radio, television and quite recently, the internet. Although there has been a steady rise in the development of new information and entertainment technologies, newspaper patronage has continued to command quite a number. There has been a decline in the patronage of newspaper patronage but some newspapers have continued to maintain their readership base.

It is estimated that in Ghana, newspapers such as the Daily Graphic and 90 minutes have a higher readership base than most radio stations have listener base or television stations have a viewer base. So what is it about newspapers that have helped it survive over the years and in this era of technological advancement? Journalists and professionals in the print media have suggested a number of reasons to why people patronize newspapers. Some examples are that newspapers bring the news of the world to the doorstep of the people. People become well-versed in the current politics and political incidents of the world. It helps the nation to form national integration and develops the outlook of the people of all sectors. In addition to that, newspapers can give us a clear idea of the current events of the country and the world. Newspaper is the best medium of advertisements concerning business, trade and industry. So many professionals in the print media suggest that people still patronize newspapers for news, information, reviews and entertainment but just like radio, there have been arguments that the needs of the readers of newspapers are intrinsic even if it is not so much like the intrinsic need for radio.

The intrinsic views offered for reading newspapers include the ability to better understand the ongoing in one’s life and surroundings, avoidance of isolation, feeling of security. They also create a feeling of involvement and participation, a bit like what radio has to offer (Crisell, 1986). When asked why people they still read newspapers even with the advent of new technologies for information and entertainment, most people cited a long standing tradition in the family as being the cause. They had a parent who always read the paper at the breakfast table and they just thought it was normal to behave as such. The next group was those that said they patronized newspapers because the newspapers gave an in-depth report of news that had been touched on lightly by the new type of media. Also, they were able to choose what they wanted to read, either by skipping certain sections of their newspapers or buying the newspaper that they preferred rather than watching a whole lot of things they did not need before they got to what they wanted.

An example was buying Graphic Sport instead of buying a whole Daily Graphic when all one needed was some sport information rather than sitting through the evening news, listening to local and foreign news, which don’t interest the person before finally getting some sport news that they yearn for. I cannot agree more with MacFarland (1997) when he argues that there is an underpinning human compulsion, but this time for reading newspapers instead of listening to radio. These compulsions include relaxation, excitement and fantasies. Most people, though mostly unaware, satisfy at least one of the basic human pleasures by reading newspapers. RADIO AND MASLOW’S HEIRARCHY OF BASIC HUMAN NEEDS

Physiological Needs
Physiological needs, according to Maslow, are the basic necessities of life. They are the things without which a human cannot survive. They are required to sustain life and include things such as air, water, food, shelter, sleep and sex. According to this theory, if these fundamental needs are not satisfied, then one will surely be motivated to satisfy them. Higher needs such as social needs and esteem are not recognized until one satisfies the needs basic to existence. Newspapers as stated in the beginning are patronized because they tell people how and where to get these essential or basic necessities of life. Some critics argue that most people who read newspapers are interested in the adverts more than the other pages, and so usually end up skipping through newspapers for best deals on food, clothing and shelter. Another example is the Graphic Corporation group which produces seven different newspapers targeted at different needs of different groups and classes of people. The Daily Graphic, the company’s flagship, has the largest circulation and readership profile in Ghana.

The Mirror, the country’s most popular weekend newspaper is packaged with mostly soft news for the comfort of relaxation of its readership over the weekend. The Graphic Sports is targeted at sports-loving people and controls the largest share of the sports newspaper market. There is also the art and entertainment newspaper, The Graphic Showbiz and children’s paper called the Junior Graphic. Graphic Asempa and Advertisers are targeted at business people. Therefore, if anyone wants to get baby food or a good deal on affordable housing or dresses, they know which newspaper to turn to. Newspapers also provide an avenue for people to gain employment and a steady source of income to be able to meet or buy life’s essentials. “We focus on food, clothing, toothpaste, temperature, a place to shower. Not much else… The newspapers sit unopened and yellowing in the front yard. We traveled somewhat numbly through the recent tragedy of storms and tornados, because, for us, life without electric power and then life when electric power came back on were really not all that different” (?). Safety Needs

Once all physiological needs are met, our attentions are shifted to safety and security in order to be free from the threat of physical or emotional harm. Some needs that seek to be fulfilled here include living in a safe area, medical insurance and job security. According to Maslow’s hierarchy, if a person feels threatened, there is no chance of the person moving upwards to achieve the other needs. Newspapers help in this regard in that, they constantly tell people of things happening around them. We need to know what is happening in terms of security issues and this is where newspapers come to our aid. Certain people read certain newspapers because it offers them a sense of security, even if it is false. An example will be the case of pro-government newspapers that only say positive things about their parties and so do not give them the true reflection of what the issues on the ground really are. Also, business people love to read the Business and Financial Times so that they are abreast with current business trends and this gives them a sense of security to be able to make informed decisions on business matters. Investors also love to gain first-hand information from newspapers to be able to know what investments to make and what not to invest in. Belongingness and Love

Though not as powerful as radio, newspapers play a very crucial role in satisfying this need. Newspapers columns such as Auntie Adiza advises you and Letters to Nana Ama help create a feeling of love to someone who might otherwise have thought of themselves as being lonely. Also, the heart to heart columns in a newspaper such as P&P and from me to you in the mirror also help create a feeling of love and belongingness. Once a person has fulfilled the physiological and safety needs, higher level of motivators awaken. The first of these levels are the love and belongingness. These are social interactions and include friendship, belonging to a group, giving and receiving love. Reading of certain newspapers gives a person an ascribed status of belonging to a particular group of people.

Sports fans tend to identify with each other by their interest in newspapers such as the Graphic Sports and 90 minutes while business people tend to patronize the Business and Financial Times because it is what interests them. Also certain institutions and organizations have copies of newspapers that pertain to their line of business in their hallways and receptions. Thus you find Ovation and Agoro in the reception of Charter House and Graphic Sports and 90 Minutes at the reception of the Ghana Football Association. The feeling to belong to a certain group is what has made print media companies like the Graphic Communications Group to make different papers for the different categories of its readers. Because what appeals to elder more informed readers will not appeal to children. Esteem Needs

After a person feels they “belong”, the urge to attain a degree of importance emerges. These needs can be categorized as external or internal motivators. Internal motivating needs include self-esteem, accomplishments and self-respect. External ones are those such as reputation and recognition. Examples of esteem needs apart from those stated above are attention and social status. Newspapers are needed by people who feel they belong to now tell other people about their accomplishments and social status and thus gain them recognition and social status. Newspapers also tell and inform people as to what the trend is or the socially acceptable norm of the day is. Though the P&P carries a lot of news about Lotto, because of the need to fulfill esteem needs, the most avid reader of P&P will actually tell people they read Daily graphic just to be thought of as knowledgeable. Nowadays, young people talk about wanting to be like their heroes and putting up pictures of these people from newspapers on their walls.

Self-actualization and Being Needs
The desire to better one’s self is one of the essentials in this level of the basic human needs. It is actually the summit of Maslow’s theory. It is about the quest of reaching one’s full potential as a person. Unlike the lower level needs, this need is never fully satisfied; as one grows psychologically there are always new opportunities to continue to grow. In fact, very few people actually get self-actualized in life. Self-actualized people tend to be truthful, just, have wisdom and make meaning out of situations and in their dealings with people. Newspapers present people with the platform to help spread their cause which makes them feel actualized. Sections such as “My Turn” and “Letter to the Editor” all help people realize their goal to becoming self-actualized. Self-actualized persons have frequent occurrences of peak experiences, which are energized moments of profound happiness and harmony. According to Maslow, only a small percentage of the population reaches the level of self-actualization.

Maslow describes self-actualization as a person’s need to be and do that which the person was “born to do.” “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.” These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

From the points drawn above, it can be deduced that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a functional variable in determining newspaper reading just like it is to radio listening. All five of Maslow’s basic needs can be fulfilled through newspaper reading even if some points are not as strong as those offered by radio. Though Maslow’s hierarchy makes sense intuitively, little evidence supports its strict hierarchy. Actually, recent research challenges the order that the needs are imposed by Maslow’s pyramid. As an example, in some cultures, social needs are placed more fundamentally than any others. Further, Maslow’s hierarchy fails to explain the “starving artist” scenario, in which the aesthetic neglects their physical needs to pursuit of aesthetic or spiritual goals. Additionally, little evidence suggests that people satisfy exclusively one motivating need at a time, other than situations where needs conflict.


Maslow, Abraham (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper. pp. 236. ISBN 0-06-041987-3. Goble, F. The Third Force: The Psychology of Abraham Maslow. Richmond, Ca: Maurice Bassett Publishing, 1970. Pg. 62. MacFarland, D.T. (1997). Future Radio Programming Strategies: Cultivating Listenership in the Digital Age(2nd ed.). Mahwah, New Jersey and London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Hoffman, E. (Ed.). (1996). Future visions: The unpublished papers of Abraham Maslow. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc http://www.graphic.com.gh/graphic_corporate/publications.html http://usuallyalex.com/2009/07/13/why-do-people-read-newspapers .

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