Chalkboard news outlet rivals Liberian mainstream media

By Gokhan Kavak and Momolu Darley

MONROVIA, Liberia (AA) – An unorthodox news platform in the capital Monrovia is providing local and international news to Liberians, who mostly cannot afford radio, television, and newspaper.

The Daily Talk, a chalkboard news outlet, was launched in 2000 to give information to the Liberian public at no cost.

“The chalkboard news outlet was invented to give information to the Liberian public, keep them informed, educate them on things that have to do with the Liberian society and the world at large,” Alfred Sirleaf, publisher of the Daily Talk revealed.

He said even though space on the chalkboard is small, they are emitting more information to the public.

“When you look at the board — what we called the center spread or front page — it has big stories, which has to do with national issues,” intoned Sirleaf.

He said the Daily Talk’s news stories contain the five “W” and one “H”. “We try to tell people exactly what is happening,” Alfred said, referring to Who, What When, Where, Why and How — the main components of the news story.

He said his research shows that the Liberian people are “a bit lazy” to read. “Liberians don’t love lengthy discussions; they just want the most important news.”

Speaking of income generation, Sirleaf said the Daily Talk is “sacrificing” for the Liberian public because they have “passion to contribute to Liberia” by keeping the people updated on what is happening.

“Sometimes we have a little advertisement which helps us to get stationery, such as cameras and papers.”

The publisher said the audience is the people who go by not just the wordings but the pictures of the subject. He said his staff consists of seven persons, who have passion and dedication for the work.

“Our staff goes on the field, capture the subjects of the news and we stick their pictures on the board.”

He said in addition to the seven staff, who get a meager token of appreciation at the end of the month, there are volunteers around the country who file in information.

Sirleaf said statistics showed the readership of the Daily Talk increases during elections period and when some controversial thing happens.

He said the Daily Talk is racking up 5,000 readers a day due to the election. “We attract more readers in the morning and evening when people are making their way to work and home,” revealed Sirleaf.

He said the Daily Talk has three kinds of audience that media institutions around the world do not have.

“We have the pedestrian audience; people with no access to generators, electricity, television, and radio and cannot afford to buy the mainstream newspaper, we have the sitting audience; people who come, sit and read and then we have the motor traffic audience; people who commute in their vehicles,” said Sirleaf.

He said they are making a significant impact by giving quality, factual and credible information for free. Sirleaf said his idea of setting up a chalkboard news outlet was first dismissed by many people he sold the idea to.

He revealed that the Daily Talk tailored their grammar to the Liberian version of English so that everyone understands.

He appealed to donors to help with funding to expand the Daily Talk to other locations in the country. “If our people around the country can have access to information like this, they will really appreciate it.”

Elkanah Johnson, one of the readers of the Daily Talk, said he read news from chalkboard every morning on his way to school.

“This chalkboard newspaper is very helpful. I get information from it every morning and the same information is also reported in the mainstream newspapers,” Johnson added.