Former WORD Senior Editors, Alieu Sheriff and Rodney Sieh, a WORD African Connection

The short version:

Before there was and early on with the latter there were Alieu Sheriff and Rodney Sieh, who, as teens, had been chased out of, first, Gambia, then Liberia because of their news critical of government practices and policies. In Liberia, when word went out that they were to be shot on sight …… they fled the continent with help from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other international organizations. They landed in London first and eventually they set up shop (so to speak) at Hunter.

They were heavily involved in the early operations of the WORD, Their plan was to return eventually to African and liberate Liberia (Rodney has family roots there) and Sierra Leone (where Sheriff has family there who had him moved to Gambia as a teen because of strife in their home country). We had  intense discussions at Hunter about the potential conflicts that could arise from their journalism aspirations and their commitment to liberation. Mixing direct involvement in politics with direct involvement in liberation journalism. [I miss those].

After Hunter and immediately after Columbia-J School, Time magazine wanted Sheriff to be its bureau chief in West Africa. He declined and moved to Atlanta and started raising a family. Time pursued him still for a few years. I’m not sure what he’s doing though I know his passion for a free Sierra Leone and a free press have not abated. After Hunter, Rodney passed on grad school and worked as a copy editor for several American newspapers (Newark Star-Ledger, Morristown (NJ) Daily Record as well as radio-stringing for the BBC, sports for the Kansas City star, etcetera, while working with others, to start an Internet newspaper that would be free of government censorship in Liberia.

It was one of West Africa’s first, if not the first, but because it was published outside the continent it couldn’t get the kind of international financial support it needed because the staff was not on the ground in Liberia.

There were years of phone-email tag as I tried, falteringly, to keep up and in touch, missing connections (like the time I was living in Atlanta area firehouses working on a project about women firefighters and failed to connect with Alieu).

Anyway, I got an email from Rodney three days ago: “I moved back to Liberia about a year and a half ago. Now running the print version of here with great success. We’re the most circulated daily since launching in November 2009.”

Waiting on word from Alieu.

More later.

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