By David S. Menjor and Gloria Tamba
Over the weekend the staff of Liberia’s oldest surviving newspaper, the Daily Observer, witnessed the transfer of authority to Bai Sama G. Best by his father, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, Sr., publisher.
Ken Best, who turns 80 in October, last Saturday said he has the explicit trust and confidence in the ability of his son Bai to lead the Liberian Observer Corporation (LOC) henceforth, despite the many challenges he went through to get thus far.
“The Daily Observer has come this far by the grace of God. Despite the many challenges we went through including the assaults, burning down of our offices, imprisonment among others, today I am grateful to God and hereby announce to you that my son, Bai Best is the new Managing Director of the Liberian Observer Corporation. He is given all rights and charged with the responsibility to manage the affairs of the corporation and continue from here on,” he said.
Bai is a graduate of Westmont College (2001), Santa Barbara, California, where he majored in Communication Studies. Between 2002 and 2005 he served as co-director of youth ministry at Christ Church of Washington (DC), until he was called to join his father in Liberia as marketing manager of the Daily Observer. In 2010, Bai was one of two Liberians to participate in the first-ever Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a forum organized by former U.S. President Barack Obama. Later the YALI forum was renamed “Mandela Washington Fellowship” (MWF), in honor of the late South African president Nelson Mandela.
Bai brings to the table great industry insight gathered over the years, along with a passion for applying creativity and technology to journalism. Under his leadership the Daily Observer successfully executed the first phase of an Elections Promise Tracker in partnership with Internews and with funding from USAID, with an aim to monitor the progress of Liberia’s elected legislators, based on their 2017 elections campaign promises. The goal of the Promise Tracker is to spur more participatory democracy by empowering the Liberian electorate with relevant information about the performance of their elected leaders.
On Saturday, with tears of joy in his eyes, Mr. Best told his son to “Keep focused.”
“I am grateful to God that I am turning the torch over to Bai,” he noted in conclusion of his remarks.
Receiving the blessing from his father, Bai Best said he was grateful to his father for the concrete foundation he has laid. “Don’t underestimate the power of humble beginnings. I am grateful have your blessing, to serve this noble institution,” Bai said.
The young MD who said he is not one for fanfare, has a mission synonymous to his father’s mission but with new ingredients to elevate the Paper to higher levels.
“Ladies and gentlemen, to accomplish our mission, we need to take research very seriously. The reason is that there is no journalism without research,” he said. In addition to research of current events, Best was also pointing to an up-coming project, aimed at digitizing the Daily Observer’s archives.
“One good news is that Internews, has also agreed to help us digitize our newspaper archives in order to ensure accessibility to more people around the world and the survival of them in the event of a disaster, like fire or flood,” he said.
The Observer’s archives include not just the Daily Observer’s own editions, but every newspaper published in Liberia since 2005, as well as vintage Daily Observer editions from the 1980s, purchased from strangers.
He also called on all the employees, including those outside of the editorial department, to consider themselves as journalists, as there they may find themselves in the middle of an unfolding story and be the only ones situated to tell it to the world.
“Knowing that technology has empowered everyone with a smartphone to gather news, we are willing to groom all of you. We will invest in training you and providing you the opportunities to contribute,” he said.
He added that there are plans underway to redesign the paper to make it more attractive and business oriented.
He named Leroy M. Sonpon, III who reports at the Lower House of the Legislature and Abednego Davis, who reports from the Judiciary, as the Observer’s best performing journalists of 2017 called on the rest of the reporters to emulate their good examples.
Also, Mr. John Stewart, former Associate Editor at the New Democrat and a former commissioner on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was named Editorial Supervisor in an effort to add quality to the production of stories.
Guests at the program included Rev. Emmanuel Giddings, Executive Director, ALFALIT/Liberia-Ghana Mission; Maureen Sieh, a niece of Ken Best and a journalist and media development specialist at Internews; and Charles Snetter, CEO, Radio Monrovia; Sando Moore, Publisher, Images Magazine; and Muriel Best, one of the Observer’s first shareholders and elder sister of Kenneth Y. Best.
In remarks, Rev. Giddings said Bai will succeed because he has been prepared for the task over the years. “Bai,” as Jesus said, “You will do likewise and even more. I am impressed with your father’s preferment of you to serve in this position. Please keep ALFALIT at heart as your father has done over the years,” Rev. Giddings said. The Observer has had a decade long partnership with ALFALIT, promoting adult literacy across Liberia.
Mr. Snetter, Madam Sieh and Mr. Moore each narrated their experiences with the Daily Observer over the years and lauded Mr. Kenneth Y. Best for his mentorship and contribution to Liberia at large.
The event was held in the Stanton B. Peabody Memorial Library a the LOC headquarters, ELWA Junction, Paynesville.