Free Readers Association is the name given to those who gather daily at Newspaper stands to read Newspapers without paying or by paying a token amount.

They discuss issues ranging from sports, politics, economy, sex and entertainment. 

Newspaper stands have, over the years, become a significant part of our society similar to that of Barber shops in the African American Community.

People gather there daily or routinely to share their passions, grievances, expectations and opinions on any pressing issue.

From Abule Egba to Oshodi, Ikorodu to Ojodu, Ikeja to Isolo, Lagos Island to Lekki, these Free Readers have one thing in common - a presumed excellent knowledge of issues in the society.

This group usually comprises graduates, the unemployed, retirees, civil servants, artisans, miscreants and even pickpockets.

They all gather to either read the newspapers or argue over just about anything that fascinates them. Sometimes the argument gets so heated that it takes a third party to douse the tension.  

These individuals make it a point of duty to gather at the newspaper stands as early as 7 am daily, to digest the newspaper content as they are served hot and may not leave until 1 pm in some cases.

If you visited a Newspaper stand in the late 80s and early 90s, you would have found out that the discussions revolved around Politics, Lifestyle issues and Sports, but a visit to Newspaper stands now reveals a dichotomy among the readers.

Young people gravitate towards publications such as Complete Sports, while older folks flip through the 'serious papers' for information.

A peculiar characteristic of Free Readers is that they claim to have more knowledge and can do a better job than the President, National Team Coach, State Governor, Local Government Chairman and even a university Vice Chancellor!

Hierarchy

There are three ranks of the Free Readers and they are easily recognized and well positioned at the newspaper stand, according to a newspaper vendor at the popular Akonwonjo Newspaper stand.

The first rank is the ‘General Reader’ who pays a token between N50 and N100 and can read all the papers available for the day.

The General Readers are those who are JJCS (Journey Just Come). More like fresh recruits. They are expected to pay their dues. The rule is that if a customer wants to buy a copy of the newspaper in the hands of a general reader, he is expected to surrender it. 

He is also expected to listen in on discussions and contribute without expecting to have the last word. 

The second rank is the 'Senior Reader', a position to which all general readers aspire. 

The appointment of ‘Senior Reader’ is usually a function of time spent and contributions to topical issues at the Newspaper Stand. This title is also reserved for regular customers who stop by occasionally to discuss. They have bought newspapers in the past and may just desire to engage in occasional discussions. 

Senior Readers are given access to all the Newspapers on the stand as well as magazines. They are expected to be able to help moderate discussions between members.

free readers

The third rank of Free Readers are the 'Assistant Vendors.' They have been at the stands long enough to be trusted by the vendors to assist in passing out papers to buyers, and even collecting the money for such sales.

Even when the vendor goes on a round of supplies, the assistant vendor is saddled with the task of selling the papers and keeping the money intact.

The role of the Assistant Vendor is usually played by students who do not have classes, unemployed youths and retirees who are not in a hurry to leave the news stand.

Despite the advent of technology with most people preferring to read news online on their various electronic gadgets, the patronage, newspaper stands command remains a delight.

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