Daily Observer Turns 37 Tomorrow

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Daily Observer Publisher, Kenneth Y. Best (left) and members of the Observer team at their Broad Street, Crown Hill office during the 1980s. Among them (pictured) J. Siaka Konneh, Lamini Waritay, Arthur Massaquoi, Thomas Nimley (deceased) and Isaac Bantu. (Photo: James Fasuekoi, The Africa Paper)

Now Liberia’s Oldest Surviving Newspaper

Tomorrow, Friday, February 16, 2018, is the Daily Observer’s 37th birthday.

The newspaper becomes the nation’s oldest surviving newspaper, finally surpassing Liberia’s first newspaper, the Liberian Herald, which lasted for 36 in 1862, when it folded.

The Herald was founded in 1826 by John B. Russwurm, a Methodist missionary, who arrived in Liberia in 1825 and brought along with him a printing press.  With that he started his newspaper the following year and it became the periodical of the Colony of Liberia.  Its first editor was Charles L. Force.  According to the Historical Dictionary of Liberia, editorial successors to Force included John B. Russwurm, Hilary Teage, Hilary Richard Wright Johnson and Edward Wilmot Blyden.

The Herald, which launched Liberian journalism, became Africa’s fifth press.  According to Carl Patrick Burrowes’ Press and Politics in Liberia, 1830-1970, the Herald came after the French language periodicals published in Egypt during the Napoleonic occupation of 1797; the Cape Town Gazette of South Africa, 1800, and the Royal Gazette and Sierra Leone Advertiser, 1801, and the Royal Gold Coast Gazette, 1822.

As mentioned earlier, the Herald lasted until 1862 when it folded. The Herald was followed by several other newspapers, including Africa’s Luminary.

The more recent Liberian newspapers included the Liberian Age, founded in 1946 by Jacob Henry Browne, and later taken over by the True Whig Party as its mouthpiece.  It lasted until 1980 when it went out following the April 12 coup d’état.

Next came the Daily Listener, founded in 1950 by Charles C. Dennis and subsidized by the True Whig Party.

Next was the Liberian Star, founded in 1964 by a consortium between the Liberian government and Lord Thomson of Fleet Street, London.  It lasted, like the Daily Listener, until 1978 when both folded.  The Listener was 28 and The Star, 14 years old.

The Daily Observer was founded by Kenneth and Mae Gene Best.  The Liberian Observer Corporation (LOC), publisher of the Daily Observer, was established in January 1980 and the newspaper was launched February 16, 1981.  The LOC’s first chairman was the legendary Liberian constitutional analyst and pamphleteer, Albert Porte, maternal uncle of the Bests.

Kenneth and Mae Gene Best, founders of the Daily Observer

Coming less than a year following the bloody 1980 coup d’état that overthrew the government of President W.R. Tolbert, Jr., the Daily Observer suffered great persecution from the military regime that staged the coup.  The newspaper suffered five closures, including one that lasted nearly two years; several imprisonments of its staff, including Mr. Best and his wife; and three government-contrived arson attacks, the third of which totally destroyed the newspaper and the Charles C. Dennis homestead on Broad Street, Crown Hill, Monrovia, the first headquarters of the Daily Observer.  The newspaper and the LOC lost everything.

By the time that last arson attack occurred, the Best family was already in The Gambia, in exile from the Liberian civil war, where they were preparing to launch that country’s first professional newspaper and first daily.

Tomorrow’s observance will be confined to a staff meeting, during which an important announcement regarding a historic transition is to be made.

Authors

7 COMMENTS

  1. Congratulations! Happy natal day! and best wishes and compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Best and the entire Observer Corporation family, for weathering those tempestuous storms all these years for none other than the betterment of Liberia. May God continues to guide and steer the course of this indomitable and unsinkable ship, for many many more years and more. Happy birthday!

  2. I hope we all can learn from their experience. Better yet still, Liberia……my dad use to tell me about those “hell days”, in Liberian journalism. That was the early 80s.
    The Junta leader announcing “PHANTOM COUPES”, one after another. Making him look like some invincible hero.

  3. Congratulations! You guys have stood the test of times, many persecution, both to your person and the entity; you knew what it was in the 1980s, though you were in exile in Gambia in the 1990s, but you experienced African democracies there to the extent of being deported. Sometimes, I become critical of some of your articles, because they are at times inflammatory, to the point where one can see your personal feelings being injected into the stories and editorials: Many years back, my favorable column was the editorial, very educative, historical and incisive, but these days it become personal with all your feelings seen into it, that is when I missed those luminaries of the profession: Rufus Darpoh, Stanton Peabody and others. Many times, when I read my favorite column, the editorial, I wondered whether Kenneth Y.Best is the one writing or it is someone else; most times, I surmised that Mr. K.Y.Best was no longer active. All in all, that paper needs the tolerance and wisdom of the old guys. The paper has made a mark in our society!
    Thanks.

  4. congratulations on turning 37. you have weathered many storms and yet you are still standing today and doing what you do best; informing and educating your many readers. My favorite column is the editorial section, very insightful and informative, but alas, it is, in my humble opinion, not living up to its reputation.
    I feel that personal thoughts is being interjected to it and then the objectivity is called into question. All in all,the Daily Observer is still my favorite paper and you have done exceptionally well over the years and you are here to stay.

  5. KUDOS, LIBERIAN OBSERVER CORPORATION for having survived multiple CHALLENGES to your very existence. My prayer is that your children will ensure a stellar legacy of Liberian journalistic excellence.

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