A Year’s Success – New Narratives Changing Media Landscape, Awards Fellows

When President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s attention was drawn to the award-winning ‘5 LD for Sex’ lead story carried in the FrontPageAfrica newspaper little was she and the rest of Liberia to realize that a brand new team of female journalists were just beginning to unearth untold societal issues.

New Narratives 2011 awards night

Covering issues of fistula, rape, abortion, female circumcision, teenage prostitution and several other cross-cutting societal issues the fine works of the team of young Liberian female journalists who have had their work climb to the fore of reporting have compelled their executives of the New Narratives organization to recognize them.

At a well-organized event held Saturday evening at a local restaurant in Monrovia, New Narratives awarded, certificated and graduated several of its outstanding reporters as it marked its first anniversary of successful reporting in Liberia.

An impressed Prue Clarke, Executive Director of New Narratives said she is grateful to other local media partners where the New Narratives reporters are employed including the FrontPage Africa, Radio Veritas, Liberia Women Democracy Radio, Sky FM and now Truth FM.

Looking back at her organization’s one year achievements, she told the audience that included other media gurus including Martin Browne and Peter Quaqua of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL): “We got Liberia talking about a lot of issues…The President’s been forced to talk about some of the issues in public forum. The police have come under fire because of the reporting of Mae Azango, the UN has been forced to discipline its forces and encourage them to behave better. And of course politicians have felt the heat of our reporting as well.”

Clarke’s organization graduated three of its fellows, awarded four and recognized through certification the rest of its fellows. Sonnie Morris, formerly of Sky FM, FrontPage Africa’s Clara Mallah and Lady Mai Hunter of the Liberia Democracy Radio are now alumni as they were graduated. Mallah’s name resurfaced among other fellows awarded as the organization’s ‘Best Profile Reporter’.

Mallah, while refreshing memories and acknowledging the precedence set by the organization’s first country director, Tamasin Ford, showed appreciation to Clarke and current Country Director Emily Schmall. She said she has not learned as much from any other institution as she has from the program.

Others awardees included FrontPage Africa’s Mae Azango for ‘Best Original Reporting’, Sky FM’s Tetee Gebro for ‘Best Short Radio Feature’ and Tecee Boley of the Liberia Women Democracy Radio for ‘Best Long Form Feature.’

For Boley who just wrapped up a Journalist for Human Rights (JHR) award for women’s rights reporter, a national reporting award, and a Pulitzer grant to attend Water Week in Sweden, the year has been one of improvement: “I’m completely out of words. I’m very grateful to God for being a part of New Narratives.

Eva Flomo, UNMil radio presenter and a model for a successful female Liberian journalists, gave the key note address recognizing the works of New Narratives: “I’m excited that you decided to change the pace of the regular reporting….. going to be listening to the voices of women telling their stories. So, I’m excited that women are being trained to tell the stories from separate angles.”

PUL President, Peter Quaqua, spoke of his happiness that New Narratives is not only in Liberia but its women reporters are changing the Liberian society. New Narrative’s remarkable one year’s achievement also includes 10 international by-lines and two of its fellows winning national reporting awards. The organization has not only restricted its reporting on women’s issues but also gone beyond by reporting on security issues along the Liberian-Ivorian border and the Sime Darby saga.

In a separate interview with FPA after the event, Executive Director Clarke maintained that a lot still needs to be done despite its one year of success, promising to turn New Narratives scrutiny onto the resources industries coming into the country.

“The (reporters) have become more confident in themselves and they’ve become role models for other Liberian women. Their success has encouraged other non-New Narrative fellows including men to start looking at the stories of other Liberians”, she continued.

The executive director, who is herself is a renowned Australian-American journalist, explained that she came up with the idea while reporting for the JHR in Ghana. She named FPA Editor and Publisher Rodney Sieh as a key figure in the conception of the program and someone who has “encouraged us on” through the year.