Stimulating Action For Change
-A Challenge Facing The Liberian Media


By Moses M. Zangar, Jr.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 4, 2004

There is empirical evidence to prove that action for change takes place based on real problems affection real people and the environment. And until Liberian media practitioners can come to the realization that they are people with a mission to stimulate actions for change, inspire public discourse and serve the public interest, the issue of overhauling and reconstructing a society moribund by decades of civil strife remains a mirage.

Society is in constant change and its members need to become partners and actors who can interpret news, understand the situation and take action to solve them.

Civil society needs to be seen by the media not just as mere spectators powerless to respond to issues that are indoctrinated with information that sells.

In short, in order to stimulate action for change, members of civil society should be seen as, and act as, partners in the process of making news and not as the target or passive recipients who receive instructions.

Being a critical segment of civil society, the Media should create the capacity for a community to discover itself, including its problems and the ways to solve them. This could animate the processes of societal transformation because the success of any nation also depends on a healthy and vibrant media.

By giving voice to the people affected by the problems, without patronizing them or promoting a guilty sentiment for those provoking the problem, it is possible to initiate critical debate leading to action for change. In this case, the journalist serves a utilitarian function as an agent of change and this makes reporting flexible and responsive to people’s concerns.

Additionally, actions for change can be encouraged if there is a component of debate and questioning among the public. This is achieved by involving the community in an engaged and interactive debate and by reporting on issues relevant to local rather than global issues within the context of the society in which we live.

For the mainstream media to support and cover action-taking activity there is an economic need for sensationalism, a social predisposition to report disaster and a political component to engage in constructive opposition to the government.
The media should look at issues of accuracy of information dissemination through reporting facts without bias towards specific interest groups and by involving different partners.

Environmental Journalist Farley argues that biased reporting is unlikely to earn readership because it is clearly unsupported by facts which can compromise the role of the media in promoting action for change.

Journalists can advocate action for change if they are able to produce balanced news and catalyze educational and social change processes within their communities.

The Media can bridge gaps by fostering communication and dialogue like nothing else. And at a time in our country, where we seek to restore dignity, the media in all their forms have opportunity to be a part of bridging this gap.
To ensure the sort of changes needed, the Media need to be inspired with new vision, by new visionaries who are trained and able to grapple with complexity, differing and competing interest, values and desires.

Creating and choosing to be part of building a new Liberian Media requires a taking of responsibilities, a sense of belonging coupled with a strong determination to promote change in the society. This represents a brave new world where the Liberian Press looks at itself in the mirror and only be itself.

The Liberian Media in all their forms need to be transmogrified into a segment with some level of technological advancement and with highly skilled, accurate, multi-source and gender-sensitive journalism. The Liberian press needs well trained professionals who will have to be adaptive enough to think ahead, plan ahead and take journalism forward.
When it comes to the development of Media in Liberia, we are barely at the beginning of that process of fundamental transformation. However, I have come to realize, with stack evidence, that although the Liberian Media are not where we would like to be, we are not doing too badly either.

By fundamental transformation, I mean, a process in which media practitioners will be conscious and active participants in shifting the gaze, defining and leading the future of our local and our global realities.

The fundamental transformation of our media has been thwarted by years of civil melee. The process has begun anew and we have a long and exciting journey ahead - one in which we determine the route, without forgetting from whence we came.

The situation facing the Liberian Media is neither desirable nor sustainable but gives us a sense of what needs to shift.
Howbeit, what is important is once we realize that transformation is a process, not an event, not a deadline, not a quota; once we look at what we have indeed achieved despite tumultuous circumstances and the road we have traveled, we would start being able to change, and prepare for what will follow.

About the Author: By Moses M. Zangar, Jr. is a member of The News newspaper in Monrovia