Let’s Keep the Courage, Philip

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The 28th Anniversary of The Inquirer newspaper is marred by an exodus of some eight members of the staff, mainly reporters and editors, from the entity on grounds that they have been working without pay for months.

During past anniversary celebrations, the cordial family ties existing among staffs of The Inquirer have always been reflected in the pictorial that usually accompanied the story.  Every worker will be attired in a special suit identified as uniform for the occasion, and awards of different categories for different performances will be given out to staffs.

This praiseworthy approach to human resource management has been the custom of The Inquirer until January 14, 2019, when some of the staffers took their exit in order to establish their own newspaper referred to as the “Independent Inquirer.”

The Inquirer itself was established in 1991 during the civil crisis and reported on developments in Liberia during the war. The raison d’etre for its establishment, contrary to that proclaimed by the current breakaway group, was necessary because the Editor and Manager Philip Wesseh, who worked for the Daily Observer for years, had remained in Liberia and the institution he worked for had shut down due to the civil conflict.

In addition to this reason, he also saw the need to begin his own business, based on his conviction and vision, and on the strength of his vision and conviction the paper has survived up to present, because the intent was not only beneficial to him personally but to the larger society as well.

We cannot judge the staffs for their decision to quit, because they need to live and, as far as the Law of Self Preservation is concerned, one must do whatever he/she needs to in order to survive.  However, in taking such a decision as taken by the staffs, the intent should be clear — realizing that one has been with this entity for years without experiencing what is currently unfolding.

Now, the departure of the staffs to establish a new media entity brings some concerns readily to mind.  The sudden and very quick pace of its establishment raises suspicions that big hands are infiltrating the media through these men and women.

In this regard, these defected staffers should realize that the constraints facing the Inquirer today is not only unique to this entity but other entities as well, including even the Daily Observer itself.

Yes, you have taken the decision to establish your newspaper, but there are few things to consider as you claim independence from The Inquirer.

Carefully consider the possibility that whoever is facilitating your decision may not be there for you at all times and somewhere down the road you could find yourselves confronted by similar constraints facing Philip Wesseh.  Establishing a media business, without studying the environment, is dangerous because when support goes away, your survival becomes unpredictable.

You also have to be careful of the source of support.  This is because if the source has connection with the ruling establishment or an individual with an interest in the political play, you will be laying your credibility on the line and society may lose confidence in you.

Let us also admonish Philip that you are not the only person who has encountered such an experience.  Your critical stand on social issues could cause those displeased by it to do whatever they can to see you fall; but the Holy Bible in the book of James 5:11 states: “Happy are those who endure temptation without fainting, because there were great men and women who did same and they reaped the fruits of their consistency and faithfulness in God.”

Build the trust so that society will know you and respect your decision and stance because, as you may be aware, the most damaging thing you can ever do is to taint your credibility and cause your audience to lose confidence.

The rather abrupt decision by the Inquirer staffers to leave in order to establish so quickly an entity should also serve as a wake-up call for all media operators to do some soul searching and introspection on how they do business, with a view to making their human resource more effective and reliable.

Yes, the constraints are here; nevertheless, media managers must start to devise positive strategies that will motivate their workers in order to reduce the likelihood of a similar occurrence at other media entities.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Internet & Artificial Intelligence (smartphones etc,) undermined bottom line of traditional newspapers resulting in in-house creation of online divisions, personnel lay-offs, merging, selling, and closing. Not even “Washington Post” of Watergate fame escaped the dislocations as the family which had control it for 80 year succumbed to Amazon founder Jeff Bezo’s USD $230 million fee in 2013. Money is tight, so, we empathize with Brother Wesseh and “The Enquirer”. However, what piques our interest is the following:

    “Now, the departure of the staffs to establish a new media entity brings some concerns readily to mind. The sudden and very quick pace of its establishment raises suspicions that big hands are infiltrating the media through these men and women…You also have to be careful of the source of support. This is because if the source has connection with the ruling establishment or an individual with an interest in the political play, you will be laying your credibility on the line and society may lose confidence in you…Build the trust so that society will know you and respect your decision and stance because, as you may be aware, the most damaging thing you can ever do is to taint your credibility and cause your audience to lose confidence”.

    It goes to the heart of what we’ve been saying about need for ethical guidelines in our media space. Let journalists be eyes and ears of society, but they shouldn’t be deaf, blind, partisan, or malicious, otherwise, they would mislead our people and stoke security distress. Yes, “security distress” because we witnessed a SLPP Party supported-media-stoked military coup in 1967, one year after graduating from police training school, when those scoffing at the phrase were, probably, in elementary school. Unquestionably, Liberia needs independent, impartial, credible, and ethical media outlets that value truth, accuracy, and fairness of reporting, just like she “must” have a UL student population not exploited or manipulated by individuals “with interest in the political play”, or fanatically advocating delusional Utopian ideologies.

  2. While rereading advice given to the “Independent Inquirer”, one can’t help thinking of reported legal circus surrounding that USD $10 Million lawsuit for libel filed by former lawmaker Torkpah Morlu against Philbert Browne of “Hot Pepper” newspaper. Briefly, the editor got hearsay from supposedly “former government officials” regarding missing L$16 billion and without regard for thoroughness or accuracy, not only rushed to print, but, even while the well-coordinated and choreographed outcry was raging, he published a follow-up that the lawmaker and others were seen divvying up some of the alleged stolen money: Suspicious overload.

    Evidently, fair play didn’t come to the picture, “Hot Pepper” never bothered to hear from the other side, thus a jaded public heard a one-sided story notoriously amplified. By any stretch, this wasn’t journalism, so, a legal move didn’t seem odd. However, what action did the rigthfully outraged plaintiff take? Unwisely, he sued for the sum of USD $10 Million! It makes one wonder why most plaintiffs against journalists at home love suing for ludicrous sums they aren’t going to get, and, worse, convey wrong impression of concerted government-driven media intimidation.

    So, since we seldom hear verdicts which might serve as disincentive or deterrence, media outlets ivariably ignore core values of a profession indispensable to democracy. Needless to say, this legal heavyhandedness plays to a purported narrative of bent officials unhingedly being hostile to freedom of expression. But Hate Media is a war crime offense and it starts with inciting vigilante justice, then morphs into goading resistance to constituted authority. Let’s, therefore, reform the media space with coolheaded legal actions like Americans do, not anger.

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