Observer @ 40: From A Simple Note to A Magazine and Beyond

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Joe S. Kappia

By Joe S. Kappia

The Daily Observer made me what I am today. I was just a university student recruited to be trained as a journalist while pursuing a degree in English/Education.

A simple note! Only a simple note from one of my professors, Mrs. Ruth Lymas Reeves, put me in contact with Mr. Best who was looking for young people to be trained.

When I took that note to Mr. Best, I was seated on a proofreading bench, and thus began my journey at Daily Observer.

Soon I started reporting stories about activities at the Ministry of Education.

I was promoted as Features Editor, responsible for the Letters to the Editor page, special columns and features articles.

Later, I started my own column, Educational Matters with Joe S. Kappia. In addition to the letter page, my column became the heart and soul of the paper that always generated controversial discussions in both public and private sectors.

We added Poetry section to the Letter Page.

With 1985 impending elections, we sustained permanent closure on January 25, 1985.

We regrouped and came back under different banners – Daily Star and SunTimes – and different managements but our aggressive hunt for news and reportage remained unwavering.

Chapter 2: Exile! I landed in Los Angeles in February 1986 to start a new life. Not as editor or reporter but as a nursing assistant caring for the elderly and mentally- challenged residents in nursing home.

I used the income generated from this hard labor to attend San Jose State University where I pursued a master’s degree in Journalism/Mass Communications.

For my thesis, I studied content analysis of three Liberian newspapers – Daily Observer, Foot Prints Today and New Liberian.

That study revealed that Third World countries like Liberia define news as a commodity for sale and thus emphasize stories that sell the papers – crime, corruption, coups and counter-coups, floods, disputes etc.

I wrote several articles for the San Jose Mercury News, Spartan Daily (university student paper)and New York Times during the war. I never landed a job!

With skills learned from the newsroom at the Daily Observer, I started publishing the West African Journal in April, 1991. I was reporting about the war in Liberia and its spill- over effects in the subregion.

This publication was received by the communities across the U.S. but we lacked the financial capacity to make it long-lasting. However, most Liberians used stories reported by the magazine to apply for asylum in immigration courts. Politicians also used the magazine to place Liberia’s plight in the forefront of American foreign policy.

But we ended the publication of this magazine in 1998.

Daily Observer has contributed immensely to my growth. As a way of giving back, I have always maintained close contact with the paper, including conducting a training program for new reporters in 2013. Daily Observer is my home.

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