Saving Sierra Leonean print and online media

29 September 2009 at 04:16 | 922 views

By Roland Bankole Marke, Florida, USA.

I’ve been toiling with the idea of making a strong case on why we need to support and protect Sierra Leonean owned news outlets.

Call them infant industries that might eventually blossom into powerful and profitable business entities, with a formidable voice that represents our goals, visions, and the life blood of the African heritage and psyche.

These are global perilous economic times. It takes more than mere passion to keep the Patriotic Vanguard, Cocorioko, Standard Times, Awoko, Concord Times or Awareness Times staying afloat. The days of freebies are quickly fizzling away before our eyes. It takes financial support to keep these publications alive and healthy.

I know first hand because I operate a website and subscribe to an Internet
server that does not give free service. On average one pays about $50-$60
monthly for these services with the cost of the webmaster and antivirus
protection not included.

Hiring local and foreign reporters, telephone and internet bills have not even factored into the equation to keep the website fully operational and running smoothly. A print magazine is additional cost that must be evaluated on its own merits. Being a publisher myself gives me the gravitas and authority to speak first hand.

A publication that is worth its salt needs stable investment ; adequate working capital keeps it efficient and effective. A Krio adage says: “Soup sweet, soup sweet, nar money kill am” i.e what you pay for is what you get.

The recent decision of the management of the Patriotic Vanguard to start charging readers a fee of $10 monthly for both the print and online edition of the journal is a mere pittance, with its 5 year credible record of free, un-interrupted service and the timely manner that news is dispensed to voracious readers. We have to take pride in supporting our own interests and communities that identify with us as a people still struggling for freedom, identity and emancipation while seeking our destiny.

Let’s think about our poor folks back home, who could not afford to pay
for the service. Information is power. The services of Sierra Leonean news
outlets have helped our folks with immigration issues in the West.

Why can’t we as a community sponsor these media outlets in the West, and make the services available to the less fortunate at home, free of cost? Most of those who cry foul or request better services are the ones who are chronically dependent on freebies. Nothing is free these days. Even aid packages require compliance with certain criteria.

We must change our self-centered and handout mindset, if we must move from dependency to self-sufficiency, harnessing the seeds of dignity and pride. How about rewarding our entrepreneurs for their skill, sacrifice and hard work? Is it not what free enterprise advocates? Reward inspires motivation and propensity to produce scarce goods and services.

Are we aware that even established newspapers in the United States are at the
brink of collapse or cutting back to arrest the nightmare of closing down?

Here’s the reality check: The Wall Street Journal has created a list of 10 major
newspapers that are most likely to fold or shutter down their print editions and only publish online. And this will change the whole dynamics of news reporting and consumption in the US. It is not going to be free.

The endangered newspapers include: Philadelphia Daily News, Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Miami Herald, The Detroit News, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Daily News, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Who wants The Patriotic Vanguard to become extinct in our lifetime? I believe the other Sierra Leonean publications too are thinking of taking similar preventive measures to save them from extinction as survival
and success are dependent on the moral and most importantly financial support we give them. Advertisement helps to defray the cost of production of newspapers. But when they slow down drastically, or dry up, trouble lurks at the publishers’ doorsteps.

Are we willing to forgo the services of a formidable news portal for trying to
swim ashore from drowning? The truth hurts but it uplifts the soul to search for
redemption. Many of our folks would never have seen their work in print or their voices heard without these news outlets. Do we want our voices to be silenced because we are too selfish to support our community initiated media? The choice is in our own hands.

It’s up to us to either embrace retrogression or propagate change that
would elevate Sierra Leonean publications to a new level of success,professionalism, integrity and prosperity.

*Roland Bankole Marke(photo) is a Sierra Leonean writer, author and commentator on global issues. He’s widely published. Visit his website: www.rolandmarke.com