It was a Tuesday morning preparing for my final exams at the then Milton Margai College of Education and Technology when I heard a radio announcement calling for interested reporters and presenters to send in their applications at Radio Democracy.
Broadcast journalism has always been a passion since my school days, as the only commercial student on the news team, I left an impressive mark at Saint Edwards Secondary School paving a clean way for me at the Voice of Children Project at UNAMSIL. There, I went through rigorous reforms and training ushering the way for my experiences at SLBS and Eastern Radio respectively.
My being at Radio Democracy is a blessing not in disguise but in reality, twice I had almost missed out on the opportunity of joining them after dropping my application letter, but as God could have it, I was one of the few who were shortlisted to join in 2006.
We had a great blend of new and experienced workers, the environment was always friendly and cordial but when its production times, it was always hitting. Radio Democracy has produced great men and women who are capable of lifting the station again. In diverse ways, we have contributed to the growth, prospect, and development of the station. Competition has always been at the center stage of the radio during our days, everyone wants to show what they have in them and how they can give that to the public. There is always competition to report, present and design programs that will not only give credence to that reporter but the station.
When I joined 98.1, we had just one current affairs program running- Watin De Be, it was a 30-minute program aired in the evening and rebroadcast in the morning. The competition to get one’s story into it was tedious. So, we pushed for the introduction of another program-Good Morning Freetown. When the idea was brought to the then Station Manager, Hannah Fullah, most staff especially the old ones frowned at it, to them, the 7.30 time was too early as they would still be sleeping or too early to go to work, but we pushed for it, so the morning broadcast started.
I grew through the ranks from a reporter on probation to the head of programs, and at times acting as Station Manager, when the substantive manager was not around. I was there when the position of Deputy Station Manager was vacant, normally from a Head of Programs you become a Deputy, but I watched that vacant position for 5 good years, without assuming it. But to me, that was not a problem, I aimed to work, a thing I did diligently. As Head of Programs, I designed and revived 11 programs-, Good morning Freetown, Mid-day Show, Sports Update, The Debate, One-on-One, Youth then Voice, Uman Kin do Am, Leh we Talk we Tribe, Voice of Democracy Icon singing competition, and many others including the most famous segment Daddy Waka Bot. Just like others who have made their marks at Radio Democracy, I was very dedicated and passionate. I was there when others left because they felt dissatisfied, I saw others leave for better jobs, I saw others leave for better pay, but I stayed because I believed in the management, I believed in my colleagues and I believed that I can fill that space which they had left. Just like them, I had got approaches from BBC Media Action, AYV, and other PR farms all of which I rejected to stay and work for the people of Sierra Leone. Mainly because I believe the station was not partisan but working in the interest of the people.
Truth be told, I never wanted to leave, but I have to because it was necessary at the time. After 14 years of dedicated service, I bowed in pain. What about the programs I have designed, and the passion I have for them is it the same with those talking over them, will the programs die bloodlessly behind me? When all questions playing in me, my hands were tied and so I could not do much because the door was already opened. Then I realized Radio Democracy just like the world, is a stage everyone comes in and plays their roles and goes after. So are the legends who had played their part before, during our days, and after.
There is now a new chapter at Radio Democracy, the Station Manager Asmaa James has left, and an interim manager is in, so what’s next for the station? Is resignation the answer? Should we come back and reinstate those past glories?