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[ERRATUM] on Sierra Leone's Doyen of Journalism Sam Metzger Passes Away
By Awareness Times
Oct 13, 2011, 10:22
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Our readers are asked to please read the Cocorioko piece linked below for a more insightful piece on dates and timelimes concerning the late Doyen of Journalists, Sam Metzger. The Cocorioko article is a clear masterpiece that befits a legendary journalist like Sam Metzger! Meanwhile, we have corrected our original Obituary Announcement to reflect the correct facts below:

Sam Metzger, the journalist who stood by his beliefs, will live forever in our memory


If only some of these giants of Sierra Leones socio-political drama had written books before their demise , they would have left us a treasure trove of knowledge .That was the feeling I had yesterday after absorbing the shocking news of the death of the Doyen of Sierra Leone Journalism , Mr. Sam J.E. Metzger , who, according to the Awareness Times newspaper, passed away yesterday evening. He must have bowed out of this life in his 80s.


You do not have to agree with what a journalist writes to admire him. I did not support some of the things  good, old Sam stood for  and I did not  support   some of his standpoints, but Sam Metzger left us a legacy ,  an admirable one,   that we should all respect dedication to ones beliefs , regardless how many people accept them . Mr.Metzger was a man I absolutely admired, not just for his writing skills, philosophical  and humorous style  of writing headlines and expressing himself to overcome his detractors but for  his unflaaging and unwavering commitment to what he believed, even if most people did not agree with him. He took his stand, stayed behind it and propagated it, regardless of what others felt. His views may have been unpopular at the time but his motives were right  many of the times and this was most important  .  He must have operated his life around Malcolm Xs philosophy :  If you dont stand for something you will fall for anything.

Sam Metzger left us a legacy that  you have to stand for something in this world,whether people agree with you or not, than be  ambiguous or a fence-sitter .   Even the Lord God admonishes in the Bible that we should  be hot or cold because if we are lukewarm he will spit us out. Nobody enjoys lukewarm coffee or tea. Even cold coffee or tea tastes better than lukewarm.

Sam Metzger started his flourishing journalism  career in Sierra Leone in the 1950s but  reportedly went to Ghana where he spent a fruitful time serving one f that nations newspapers before he returned home to be recruited by the then ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP ) to serve as Managing Editor of their newspaper, Unity , which was set up in 1965 to  join The People, edited by Julius Cole, to help the party establish a robust media presence  and challenge the pro- All Peoples Congress ( APC ) newspapers, We Yone , established in 1962 and  Think  and the anti-government  Shekpendeh , Scope  and Awoko , before the epic 1967 General Elections . A  competent newspaperman, who went  through the ranks from cub reporter , Copy Boy , Copy taster to full  reporter, sub-editor etc.  before becoming Editor-In-Chief ,  Sam Metzger rose to the occasion and helped establish and nurture  a rich atmosphere  of partisan political and civic  journalism in a  nation , which after gaining  Independence,   faced a brief period of leanness with  only one newspaper in action , the non-partisan official government media, The Daily Mail  , despite a robust pre-Independence era of volatile journalism, spearheaded by the legendary trade unionist , I.T.A Wallace -Johnson with newspapers like the  West African Pilot reigning alongside the Daily Mail  .  The political power wielded by the press was once again demonstrated in a Sierra Leone that  become the Fleet Street of West African journalism  again with Metzger part of an illustrious   cast  of  famous journalists like Sarif Easmon , Ibrahim Taqi , Sam Short ,  Sam Hollist,  Alimamy Conteh etc  who  produced  one of the finest and  most dramatic moments of Sierra Leone journalism.

After the APC won the elections in 1967 , which was marred by disputes triggered by the losing SLPP who invited the army to seize power  , followed by a years interregum of military rule, Sam Metzger converted Unity into the popular Nation newspaper , through which he provided the most sensational and thrilling coverage  imaginable , of the breathcatching political events of the time, including the various Commissions of Inquiry set up by the then ruling National Reformation Council (NRC ) headed by the late Brigadier A.T. Juxon-Smith . In those days, The Nation sold like hot cakes as readers rushed every morning to read Sam Metzgers often satirical articles that lampooned the overthrown SLPP government officials, most of whom faced corruption and abuse of office hearings before the Commissions of Inquiry. Sam Metzger filled his  comprehensive coverage of the proceedings of the commissions with so much drama and anecdotes from the Commission hall  that the Nation was the best-selling newspapers  in Sierra Leone. He juxtaposed the political news with sensational coverage of accidents ,  rapes,  witchcraft confessions , robberies etc. with matching photos.  In 1967-68 through 1970 , Sam Metzger was the king of Sierra Leone journalism.

Though he did not outrightly attack the military government, Metzger wrote enough innuendoes in his editorials  to arouse the suspicions of the ruling military elite  who had started to renege on their promises   to return the country to civilian rule  at the earliest possible time . One brisk February morning in 1968, as Metzger and colleagues  relaxed over some pints of Star Beer  at the favourite  meeting point  for journalists in those days (CITY HOTEL )  he was picked up by Army Police and driven in a military landrover  to Pademba Road Prisons where he was  incarcerated.  No reason was given for his sudden arrest .

Metzger was in prison when the military government was overthrown in a stunning coup the following month  by  Sgt.  Alex Foday  Contehs Anti-Corruption Revolutionary Movement ( ACRM) .The non-commissioned officers recalled Brig. John Bangura from Guinea to form the National Interim Council ( NIC ) , which going by the recommendations of the Dove Edwin Commission of Inquiry , which had declared the APC winners of the 1967 elections , in turn recalled Mr. Siaka Stevens from the same Guinea to form a civilian government. Metzger was released from jail and what  followed  was yet another era of dramatic journalism where  he taunted Brig. Juxon-Smith  every day  in the pages of  The Nation and caricatured their famous meeting in the cell at  Pademba Road Prisons in an epic series  titled : LOOK ME, AH LOOK YOU . It then started  becoming  apparent why the soldiers had moved to arrest Metzger . After his release, he  also published the famous series of articles on the topic  : THE HOUSE  THAT J BUILT ,which were revelations that despite his saintly statements and pretences, Brig. Juxon-Smith had also dipped into the national coffers to  build a  mighty house somewhere in the city-the very corruption for which Juxon-Smith had publicly humiliated Sir Albert Margai and his SLPP ministers and officials . Those were the days of interesting journalism in Sierra Leone.

The most spectacular turnaround in Sam Metzgers life then followed in 1975 when after the NATION newspaper folded up , the  Prime Minister , Siaka Stevens, recruited him to take over the APC party newspaper WE YONE as Editor-In-Chief replacing Arika Awuta-Coker who was transferred to the government-owned Daily Mail to replace Clarence Labor who was sent on leave. It was real-time drama  in Sierra Leone as Sam Metzger became spokesman and promoter of  Pa .Shaki, whose ascension to power he had fought to a standstill in 1964-67 as Editor of Unity. Suddenly, Julius Cole of The People and Lamina Rogers of The Times who were his  allies in the SLPP  became Metzgers bitter rivals and antagonists with whom he often had very bitter and exciting press wars  that lasted for weeks in the pages of their newspapers. The SLPP journalists and Sierra Leoneans who had become disenchanted with Pa Shaki s rule ridiculed Metzger as a turn-coat and a sycophant but he stood his ground impressively , parrying away the attacks and contending that only God and fools do not change with the times. Metzger successfully argued that nothing stopped  journalists from  switching  over from  particular standpoints  if they became convinced that they were in error. He conceded that he once opposed Siaka Stevens but that was then. Now he was convinced that Pa.Shaki , compared to Albert Margai and other SLPP officials aspiring for power , was the best choice for the Sierra Leone of the time and thus he was very proud to promote his government. Metzger powerfully beat off his critics and became one of the most widely read newspaper editors of his era, partly down to the fact that readers had no choice , since there were only the Daily Mail and We Yone .

Sam Metzger provided President Stevens the most uncompromising and aggressive support in We Yone during the 1977 students demonstrations led by Hindolo Trye, which almost overthhrew the government ; the steps towards the declaration of one-party state in Sierra Leone in 1978 and the Labour Congress strike  which also almost resulted in the government being toppled . His witty page 3 op-ed articles and  centre page editorials powerfully argued President Stevens case and ridiculed the Presidents  detractors.

I became personally acquainted with Metzger when I lived in the same apartment with my late cousin, Kolossa John Kargbo , who was one of the brains behind We Yone in the late 1970s and  early 1980s,  serving  as Sports Editor , gossip columnist (Look Gron and On the Safari Beat ) and feature writer . Sam Metzger , when in his light-hearted moments, loved to recount his long and interesting experience as a journalist. He hated nothing like journalists who emerge overnight and start calling themselves Editors-  in-Chief  without rising through the ranks.

Metzger believed that the best journalism training was not obtained in colleges  per se but by working diligently through the ranks , for instance from a trainee on the job, to a cub reporter ,  to a full reporter,  to learning on the job how to cover the variuos branches of newspaper work -Sports, fashion, entertainment , politics and what-have-you. He believed that colleges do not teach some of the experience and tricks of the trade that come in handy when needed which one gained only through  hands-on experience in the newspaper office. Metzger himself, apart from his editorial and feature articles, was splendid in sports-writing, though he never used his name in his sports reports .  He did not leave behind his witty remarks even when writing sports. Once he wrote about a match between Freetown United and East End Lions . United lost the game due to a howler by their goalkeeper. Metzger, the master of lampoon, described the goal in this fashion : The goalkeeper went for the ball like a monkey arching  its hands to catch a banana. He got it, but the  ball slipped from his hands and  rolled  into the net.The jeers that followed from the spectators showed  the goalkeeper that he was good for nothing. There had to be a tint of humor in whatever he wrote . Today, sports-writing is a dying art in Sierra Leone because journalists no longer start as cubs who work their way from the bottom to the top. They have no knowledge of sports-writing and other aspects of journalism. No wonder all you read today in many newspapers are personal attacks and sports news plagiarized from the internet.

Sam Metzger never regretted the role he played as the chief promoter of the Siaka Stevens Government. He believed that he had a mission to accomplish at the time to help President Stevens government overcome the many threats to its existence which he believed could have plunged the country into war if they had succeeded .

President Ernest Bai Koroma  made Mr.Metzger one of the recipients of awards to mark Sierra Leones 50th Independence Anniversary this year. It was a timely and patriotic move by  Mr. Koroma because it would have been unfair if Sam Metzger had died without recognition. Sierra Leone has lost a giant  of the inky profession, a man of controversial views , a man you would not agree with but would respect for standing up for what he believed.He was the doyen of journalism. Indeed, there will always be one Sam Metzger.

May his soul rest in peace.

AWARENESS TIMES ANNOUNCEMENT:- According to a text message from the Secretary-General of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists(SLAJ), veteran journalist Sam Metzger has passed away in Freetown during the evening hours of October 11th 2011. He was a Founding Member of SLAJ some 40 years ago. Metzger has made History by becoming first the Founding Editor of the main opposition SLPPs Unity Newspaper and then he was to later become a key Editor of the ruling APC partys We Yone newspaper. He will be definitely missed. Funeral arrangements will be announced later.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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