Inquirer’s Managing Editor Grateful to God, But…

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In the midst of economic difficulties in the country, the Managing Editor of the Inquirer Newspaper, Atty. Phillip N. Wesseh, says he still remains grateful to God for the newspaper being the only surviving post-war independent in Liberia.

“Indeed, the three decades of existence thus far were not rosy, as there were many challenges, including dangerous assignments for which we took the risk. The fact that this paper started when the guns were raging, created a challenge to the paper to exercise a great deal of professionalism and high ethical standards,” said Atty. Wesseh.

According to him, when The Inquirer came on the market January 15, 1991, there were about 15 newspapers that also came on the news stand, but today it is only the Inquirer that is still on the market.

He said the Daily Observer and The News newspaper were in existence before the civil war but shut down when the war intensified. After the Inquirer Newspaper had survived the turmoil, the two original papers joined in 2005.

The Inquirer, known as Liberia’s only surviving post-war independent paper, on Friday, January 15, 2021, celebrated its 30th anniversary.

This year’s celebration, according to Atty. Wesseh, was marked by an intercessory and thanksgiving service held at the Eliza Turner Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church on Camp Johnson Road to mark the 30th anniversary, at which time some employees were honored by the management of the institution and Personalities of the Year were recognized. 

Some members of The Inquirer during the 30th Anniversary thanksgiving service at the Eliza Turner Church on Camp Johnson Road, Monrovia

Some of those who are presently holding on to the paper are Frank A. Smart, Alex Yomah, Bill W. Pyne, Precious Freeman, Grace Bryant, Bill Cooper, Solomon Isaac, Lewis Weah, Richard Myers and Ignatius Sackor.

The Inquirer was officially founded on January 15, 1991 by a group of young Liberian journalists, who came from the Daily Observer newspaper to fill the communication gap created as a result of the country’s civil conflict. The Inquirer’s first Managing Editor was Mr. Gabriel I. H. Williams and its first Chairman of the Board of Directors was the late T-Max Teah.

Atty. Wesseh, who is known as one of Liberia’s prominent and well-respected journalists, said there is a notion that Liberians cannot manage a business.  This paper was organized by a group of young people and most of whom came from the Daily Observer background, following the temporary folding of that, Liberia’s first independent daily newspaper. “We have been able to manage the paper for the past 30 years and we will still go forward by the Grace of God to continue on the market.”

Attorney Wesseh noted that there have been challenges along the way but looking at the general economic situation pertaining in the country at this time–the slow sale of newspapers and the trickling in of advertisements—the business side of newspapers has significantly declined.

He admitted that the management of the paper is in serious salary arrears with its employees and it is just their commitment, dedication to the job that keep them coming.

According to him, the issue of an institution owing salary arrears to its staff for many months is reflective of the very poor economic situation prevailing in Liberia, of which The Inquirer is no exception and this is what we keep saying. But others are saying our problems stem from our being critical of government.  “We are not; but if the government does not perform well its duty to the people and the public that will definitely affect every one of us in business.

“And this is why most people do not understand that when you raise these burning public issues — they say you hate government. No! You cannot hate the government—because they are in charge of running the state. But the issue of the general economy is affecting all of us.

“Unfortunately for us, when those people left to establish the Independent Inquirer, especially those that were working with us, Winnie Jimmy, Throble K. Suah, Webster Cassell and Varney Sirleaf, among others, came back just to save and protect the image of the institution and this was very important.

“We are very grateful for this and this is why I said in my article, “To God Be the Glory.”  This does not   mean we are perfect but we are here today because of the help listed,” he noted.

Atty. Wesseh also recognized the efforts and contributions made by several women, particularly those that were in the editorial leadership, including Madam Massa Washington, Mrs. Melisa Chea Annan and Mrs. Winnie S. Jimmy, who run our newsroom.

He used the occasion to encourage Liberian journalists to develop a good working habit which, Atty Wesseh said, he learned from Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, founder, publisher and former managing director of the Daily Observer newspaper, Liberia’s first independent daily.

For his part, The Inquirer’s first managing editor, Gabriel I. H. Williams, has urged the paper and other independent media to remain vigilant in covering the plight of the Liberian people.

He said the national economy faces collapse as reflected by the chronic shortage of cash in the country, especially at a time when the government has proven unable to provide security and protection for the Liberian people.

Williams’ comments were contained in a reflective article published in the Inquirer Newspaper recently, in observance of the paper’s 30th anniversary.

“We will continue the fight for press freedom under Weah’s government. The Inquirer has weathered the storm of violence and economic hardship for 30 long years,” Mr. Williams recalled.

In a statement on the occasion of The Inquirer’s 30th anniversary, Daily Observer publisher Kenneth Y. Best has extended his warm congratulations to Mr. Phillip Wesseh and the entire Inquirer family for their steadfastness in publishing this newspaper for 30 long years.  Next to the Daily Observer, Mr. Best said, The Inquirer is Liberia’s second-oldest daily newspaper.

The Observer publisher commended The Inquirer’s founders first for their boldness in starting the newspaper at a time when, with the folding of the Daily Observer during the early days of the civil war, there was no daily on the market and times were indeed difficult, as war years are everywhere in the world.  But Gabriel Williams, T. Max Teah, Phillip Wesseh, former Daily Observer staff all, mustered the courage and stamina to take the plunge into the launching of a daily newspaper.  As Phillip has always reminded readers, they took their courage from the Daily Observer staff, led by Mr. Best, who braved many dangerous storms, including sudden closures, imprisonment, and even several arson attacks; yet remained steadfast to their calling and continued to publish until the advent of the civil war, when it became impossible to do any business in Liberia.

Mr. Best extended heartfelt commendation to Messrs. Williams, Wesseh and all the staff for a job well done over these past 30 years.  “You are right behind the Daily Observer, which at 40 this year, is 10 years older.  May you continue to persevere, and also continue training your staff to meet current and future challenges.  May you also continue to strive for press freedom in Liberia as we at the Daily Observer did throughout the turbulent 1980s, amidst great persecution, even until now.  We have never given up.  We urge you to do the same and be assured of final victory!  

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