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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Kenneth Best on the Daily Observer newspaper and its 40-year journey

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A third Liberian Daily Observer former staff who earned a PhD was Isaac Thompson, our first Copy Editor in 1981. Isaac took the PhD in Development Economics from Columbia University, New York, and currently works for a major NGO in Accra, Ghana.

Another of our Gambian Daily Observer employees, Alieu Badara Sheriff, a Sierra Leonean, entered my alma mater, the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, and took the Master’s in Journalism.

Two of our own children, Mrs Lindiwe Boto Lindani, and Bai Sama Gwenning Best, followed me in journalism. Lindiwe took the Master’s degree in Journalism from the University College of Maryland, College Park, USA. Upon her return home she was immediately appointed Business Strategist at the Observer. She was responsible for preparing the feasibility study for the second loan we acquired from the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment to purchase our own premises, situated on over an acre of land here in Paynesville, Montserrado County, Liberia, now the new headquarters of the Daily Observer and its parent body, the Liberian Observer Corporation. She also spearheaded the renovation of the property on the premises, which is now the modern headquarters of the Daily Observer.

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Our first son, Bai Sama Gwening Best, took the Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Bai returned to Liberia in 1995 to work, too, with the family business, where he succeeded his father as managing director of the corporation and its newspaper, the Daily Observer.

Another daughter, Mrs Dumalo Dennis, a wife and mother of two professional sons, is a senior nursing professional in Minnesota, while another, Mrs Kona Walker, holds the same position in Maryland. A third daughter, Mrs Facia Yandia Best, a mother of three – a son and two daughters – is a teacher in Minnesota. Our foster son, BJ Goodlin, and his wife, Mrs Casselia Major Goodlin, are parents of identical triplet sons, all of whom are now out of college.

I close this 40th anniversary message by saying a big thank you first, to Almighty God, who made all of this possible; to Mae Gene, who joined me in the establishment of both the Liberian and Gambian Observer newspapers; our sisters, Muriel Best, Mrs B Inez Best-Brewer and Mrs Juanita Traub-Mitchell, who assisted us on the staffs of both the Liberian and Gambian Observer newspapers.

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I would like to say a special word of gratitude to our big sister, Ms Muriel Best, who in 1980 gave us her first and then only dwelling home at Voker Mission, Paynesville, to be used by our bankers, the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment. Thank you, Sis Muriel, for your love and for your confidence reposed in Mae Gene and me by sacrificially entrusting us with your only house in 1980, to be used as collateral for the first loan awarded us to start the Daily Observer. We are eternally grateful to you for this.

We also say a word of immense thanks and appreciation to our sainted uncle, Albert Porte, the legendary Liberian constitutional analyst, crusader with the pen and pamphleteer, who served as the first chairman of our board of directors, Mr CTO King, who succeeded Mr Porte as chairman following Mr Porte’s demise in March 1986, and all the other board members, including Bishop Roland Jigi Payne, Mr G Flama Sherman and Counsellor Stephen B Dunbar.

We remember fondly at this time our sainted parents, George and Lilian Best and Byron and Margaret Traub who in their own vocations set the pace for us. George Standfield Best and his wife Lilian, parents of Muriel, Sybil, Beryl, Kenneth and Genevieve, Byron Z and Margaret Stewart Traub, set the stage for us to embark on this noble endeavour, the founding of two daily newspapers in West Africa. George Stanfield was one of the leading writers of our great and esteemed pioneer, the Crozierville Observer, a monthly newspaper which he and our uncle Albert Porte founded and published in the township of Crozierville in 1930. That newspaper became the leading Liberian periodical that closely covered the Fernando Po Crisis of 1930 – the shipping, by President Charles DB King, his Vice President Allen Yancy and others of forced labour to the Spanish island of Fernando Po (now Equatorial Guinea). It was that crisis that led to the forced resignation of President King and Vice President Yancy. We are fortunate to have retrieved the complete set of the Crozierville Observer, thanks to my former classmate and friend, the eminent Liberian historian and scholar, Dr D Elwood Dunn, from Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University). The complete set of the Crozierville Observer is on display in the library of our newspaper, the Daily Observer, at our headquarters at ELWA Junction in Paynesville, near Monrovia.

We thank all our children – Mrs Dumalo Dennis, Mrs Kona Walker, Mrs Facia Y Best, Mrs Lindiwe Lindani, Mr Bai Sama Gwenning Best and his wife, Mrs Beryl Allen Best, Mr Kenneth Y Best, Jr and Ms Lilian Leneh Best, who have all stood by us through it all.

Our thanks go also to all our staff, including the late Rufus Darpoh and the late Stanton Peabody, our first two editors-in-chief; to Mike James and the late T Max Teah, our first news editors, our first Grand Bassa correspondent, Willis Crayton, our first art Eeditor, Mr Asiedoo, Isaac Thompson, our first copy editor, Ms Comfort Appiah, our first chief typesetter, Sando Moore, our first chief photographer and head of the photo division, our invaluable telecommunications engineer, Ike Wesley, who consistently kept our compugraphic photo typesetting machines running, by which we typed the Daily Observer; Harrison Jidueh (commonly called Black Baby), our second art editor, the late Sam Van Kesselly and Jonathan Neah, our typesetters; James Seitua, our second news editor, the late Mlah Ju Reeves, our first foreign news editor, who unfortunately died recently in London, and my secretaries, the first being Mrs Frances Crusoe and the second, from 1986s until early 1990, Mrs Rose Martin King, who has worked for the United Nations since the early 1990s when the Daily Observer folded after the Liberian Civil War began. We also remember at this time our other female reporter, Annie Broderick, who later became Miss Liberia, Kanty Roberts and Weweh Debah, earlier reporters.

Upon our return from exile in 2005 to resume publication of the Liberian Daily Observer newspaper, Stanton Peabody was still around to join me again; and so were many other old Observer staff members, including Abdullah Dukuly, our court reporter in the 1980s, who became editor-in-chief in 1995; Burgess Carter, currently our Liberian Senate correspondent; Sando Moore, our chief photographer in the 1980s to the 2000s, John Forkpa, CY Kwannue, Ms Fatoumata Fofanah, and our layout staff, Kendwin Hunder and . . . We thank all of them.

We express gratitude also to our current editorial team, headed by the new managing director, Bai Sama G Best, our senior opinion writer, John Stewart, our legislative correspondents, J Burgess Carter and Leroy Sonpon, senior editors Joachim Sendolo and Robin Dopoe, our court reporter, Abednego Davis, Reporters William Q Harmon, Ms Hannah Gerterminah, David Yates, our Nimba correspondent Ishmael Menkor, David Menjor, Alvin Worzi, our Farm Correspondent Judoemue Kollie, and Reporters Simeon Wiakanty, . . . and Saa Millimino . . .

We say thanks also to Prince Sekor, head of . . . Security Firm and his able team of security officers at the Daily Observer headquarters at Elwa Junction and at the home of the publisher and Mrs Kenneth Y Best.

Today, Sando Moore has started a glittering and highly successful third Daily Observer grandchild, a monthly magazine called Images.

Another of the former Observer editors from the 1980s who joined the effort of the Liberian Daily Observer revival in 2005 is Joe Kappia, who served from the 1980s as our first education correspondent. Joe later travelled to the USA, where he is currently teaching high school in California. He continued to write for us following our return in 2005.

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