Assessing the Liberian Media: How Watchful Were Our Watchdogs?

We have purposely chosen this course of professional preoccupation to objectively critique our performance for the year 2012. Yes, we do randomly bring our national leaders into the limelight given their roles and how such interventions impact the lives of the good people of our country variously.

When our leaders perform on the average and exceptionally we acknowledge – when the deliverables fall below the belt – we criticize the lack of hindsight and wisdom. We do so without any particular interest but a commitment to put Liberia first folks.

This nation gradually moved on after a tumultuously fought 2011 polls with a dozen of somewhat immaterial players. Various commentators sought to pigeon-hole different sections of the media through their own well-thought-out analysis. Who are we to condemn them since not one is holier than thou? Not one will cast the first stone…

Our country has interestingly moved on – with the peace steadily strengthened and hope in the economic rebirth slowly burgeoning. Hey, it is not our role here to discuss economics in the elaborate sense as would comrade Augustine Ngafuan or Samuel Jackson as it were but a snapshot kind of overview that our recovery is on course constitutes our limits. A good, surviving or managing economy cannot be measured on the basis of a swelling consumption of job-seekers getting sweeping employment.

Folks, let us remember that 2011 was an election year and the media landscape was expected to remain above the fray. What should that mean? The media, as watchdog of the society has a sacred social cum professional responsibility to present nothing but the obtainable version of the truth. Was that the case? Maybe, the Liberian people would be our best judges. The media was obliged to ensure fair, balanced and impartial coverage of all sides in our elections.

We should not lose sight of the fact since it was an election year; the parties were mainly interested in spreading or selling messages that would-be voters would buy based on content. It was not up to the media to do propaganda for the political parties. By and large – the parties were faced with essentially PR sort of messages to win and convince likely voters. How many of the parties were prepared to pay heavily to convey their self-styled messages? In spite of the coverage given the parties – different parties will reflect contending internalizations of the overall coverage of the media.

We should not forget that the media also forms part of our societal complexity as well as a typical human institution. As such, it is a reflection of the ups, downs and nuances that affect every organization managed by human beings. Those elections have come and gone and we all have agreed to progress by focusing on the democratic development and social-economic prosperity of the body polity. It is good news that we are all torch-bearing peace, stability, national reconciliation – and have credulously zero-in on Vision 2030.

While so little might be available as far as Vision 2030 is concerned, we think the onus rests squarely on the shoulders of the Media Center of Vision 2030 to raise the stakes by embarking on an aggressive campaign of concerted, programmatic, pragmatic, and media-friendly crusade to educate thru formal and informal means of communications, hold public or palaver hut discourses and line-up both print and electronic media outfits that will tailor- fashion the packaging of information for public consumption.

One of our most incessant antagonisms about the performance of the local media in this country has been ostensibly about the quality of, failure to evolve strategic planning, staff recruitment and retention, departmentalization and business development soul-searching. We do not intend to resort to score-carding as it were but recognize that there are problems with limitations across the broad spectrum.

We have and do take pride in repeatedly stressing the historical context of our involvement in the practice of professional and responsible Journalism in our country. We have transitioned at a pace so to speak staggeringly folks but the resilience to climb the ladder has been unwavering. It has been anchored on the premise of inclined passion to say the least. Sometimes we are often sickened by the schooling – that journalism is thrust on ‘talent and ambition”. It evolves around creativity – insightfulness – enormous research and incredible dexterity as an inspiring cum thinking individual.

The Liberian media is dogged by an ugly syndrome of “sole proprietorship”. Partnership remains inconspicuous at least at a rate of 99.9%. Board of Directors legacy has become a non-starter – as the precepts of checks and balance is largely a novelty. Should that be the case? It shouldn’t but what would be the alternative when no quash program is in place to help media institutions grow as corporate – independent and profit-targeting entities. Is there really a need for one?

Absolutely yes! Will we ever get there? We cannot be pessimistic about the growth of the media in this country. Apart from scramble over newspaper sale revenues or slowly creeping radio or TV ads cash flow, it is hard time our media organizations put their sales, marketing of business sections to work with a view to revolutionizing the sharp increase profit dividends.

How many of our media organizations conduct retreats? Do they really understand the essence of retreat? They should against the background that if the media must be seen as an intellectual powerhouse for the communication of refined and well-processed information to the population, the challenge is to look within and marshal ideas like the Americans evolved a “Marshal Plan” for Europe after World War II.

While in the past we spent a great deal of time reckoning the need to address the issues of content to attract all and sundry to newspaper reading and curiosity for news, features, puzzles, and entertainment, little time has been devoted this moment not because of any serious progress but to engage colleagues to explore another frontier that will help the growth and development of the media industry.

Arguably, different media outlets – would approach issues diversely because of their individual “Editorial Policies” – that are propelled by specific interest. We are not judges in this enterprise to render judgment but our candid opinion. While we cannot give a general or blanket assessment of the media landscape in this nation – our overall rating will put the media’s performance at “C⁺” for 45% and “D” for 65% on account of “content analysis, editorial consistent, ethical judgment, responsible journalism, balance, objectivity, unbiased reporting and consistency”. May the Good Lord watch between us and the larger media – while we are asking one for another – Amen!   


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