Awoko newspaper celebrated its 18th birthday on August 10. And it just so happens that the 9th, the day before, marked the exact mid point of my time here in Sierra Leone. I can’t believe it’s gone by so fast. As of today I have just four weeks and two days left before I fly to Morocco for a week of travel, and then back home to Seattle.
I can’t deny it’s sometimes been challenging and frustrating here, but overall it’s been an amazing experience. Just being in Sierra Leone is such an eye opening life experience in itself. But being able to see and understand how things work in Sierra Leone — a country unique in so many ways, but similar to so many around the world in the traumas it’s experienced and the need for development — through the lens of journalism is just the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m convinced that every American should at least visit sub-Saharan Africa (and the Middle East), and preferably not in vacation mode. When Americans remember that Africa exists at all, it’s usually in the context of so many stereotypes. If people understood what it’s actually like here — and in so much of the world — our discourse as a country and relationship to the world would be so much richer and more reality-based.
Anyway, my ramblings aside, Awoko newspaper deserves a lot of credit for thriving as a rare independent newspaper for 18 years in Sierra Leone, through civil war and the ebola crisis, the threat of harsh libel laws, and an environment for journalists way more difficult than what most American journalists have to deal with.
Congratulations Awoko, and here’s to many more years!
I wrote a column for the occasion, if you’re curious. I wanted to interview a lot more members of the staff about what they like best about their newspaper, but as is typical of journalism, I was struck with a deadline and I had to just turn it in with only one interview. The next day my colleague asked why he was the only one quoted. Sorry Ophaniel!
Awoko newspaper turned 18 years old on Wednesday, which was celebrated in the office with food and a huge cooler full of ginger beer. “It’s like a boy who’s all grown up,” one of the staff said. As it happens, Tuesday this week marked the midpoint of my time here in Sierra Leone. I’ve been here five weeks, and I have five more weeks to go. Working at Awoko has been an awesome way to spend five weeks in Sierra Leone, and I’m looking forward to the rest.
Early in my internship, I asked one of my colleagues what makes Awoko newspaper different from the other roughly 100 other newspapers in Freetown. He told me Awoko speaks for itself read Awoko, and then read how the others cover the same stories, and it’s plain to see, he said.
Full piece: Happy 18th birthday, Awoko Newspaper!