Nightwatch Steers The Middle Course
THE IMPORTANT function of the media in the community cannot be underestimated. It has ineluctably become the Fourth Estate of the Realm. Any governance without the positive role of the media cannot be regarded as a democracy in the Western sense of the word.
THE ROLE of the media in Sierra Leone is centuries old from colonialism and should by now be a permanent feature that should not be ignored by any government that means well for its citizens. Towards the end of colonialism there were media giants like the late I.T.A. Wallace Johnson for whom a street in the Central Business District has been appropriately named. In their wake came vibrant newspapers like For Di People, Unity Now, The Tablet and Unity to name only a few.
ALL JOURNALISTS are by virtue of their handicraft alarmists. Never mind! But there is truth and entertainment enough to print and broadcast without falsehood. Some journalists are obviously without virtue and some have missed their calling. But this is the situation in all other professions.
NEWSPAPERS AND other print media outlets cannot obviously subsist without money. In this country uniquely enough and unlike countries like Nigeria newspapers are not financed by the monied classes but by the efforts of individual journalists without substantial capital. This results in proprietors leaning on politicians who would naturally expect support for their parties in turn. As a result the independence of those sponsored papers is compromised. This is why some are of the view that there is no such thing as an independent newspaper with which we disagree. This is not to say that there cannot be a dispassionate neutrality of mind of some people.
DURING OUR civil war newspapers were published almost all from Short Street in Freetown without commercial or other advertisements. This clearly shows that the role of the almighty advertisers can be counted out and newspaper life can go on as illustrated above. But that situation goes on with great constraints. A whole lot of information can be left out as it happened during the war. There were only four pages because the proprietors could not break even with more pages.
IN GHANA where there are fewer newspapers per population as compared with more than 20 in small Sierra Leone, the few sponsored by tycoons or institutions stand out. This compares with our local scene where some newspapers appear only on national celebration periods because they cannot exist without advertisements.
Nightwatch Lonely Path
WITHOUT SUBSTANTIAL advertisement and party sponsorship during our seven months of existence our struggle continues regardless. It will be seen that apart from the Standard Times we carry more pages than most other newspapers thereby giving the readers value for money. With a policy of positive neutrality our objectivity is now well known. This is why the government does not give us their advertisements. What they do not realize is that their advertisements in newspapers that have circumscribed circulations would not have the effects intended. Their Public Relations Officers are more interested in kickbacks than maximum circulation.
WE TELL the people what they think and not what we think. And we give them something suited to every palate. We pay our own piper and therefore call our own tunes that resonate with the progressive sections of the populace.
WE TAKE this opportunity to thank our objective readers and advertisers who have helped us reach the higher heights that we keep on achieving by the day.