UL President Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson presenting the Award to Frank

Sustaining “PNW” Legacy: Academia And Practicing Journalism Come Full Circle As UL’s Amos C. Sawyer College Gives 1st Philip N. Wesseh Journalism Award For Academic Excellence

By Frank Sainworla, Jr., fsainworla@yahoo.com

UL President Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson presenting the Award to Frank

Back during the pre-war Daily Observer newspaper on Crown Hill in central Monrovia was a then young Desk Editor called Philip N. Wesseh, popularly known by his initial “PNW”, who fate had destined to meet a then Cub Reporter on fire to practice Journalism.

And this writer was the one. Given the fact that the University of Liberia (UL) main campus on Capitol Hill was a goldmine for news, fresh from high school, I was eager to write stories, something that thrusted me to meet veteran respected Journalist Kenneth Y. Best, the Observer’s founder and Publisher.

Seeing the fire in me with sample of the work I had submitted asking the Observer to be a Freelancer, I was handed over to PNW who after a short period got attached to me. That was when I got to know his second nickname, “Gina”, who had drilled me through the editorial policy of the Observer, which demanded three leads for each news story a Reported submitted. Though calm in spirit, he was thirsty for good stories and had good human relations with broad smiles. That even drew me closer to him after my first story was published carrying my byline, thus putting this famous New Kru Town boy my first Journalism Mentor on the national level.

So, these were just bits of the memories I reflected on when the Amos C. Sawyer College (formally Liberia College) recently announced at the 103rd graduation convocation of the University of Liberia (UL) that I was chosen to receive the Philip N. Wesseh Print Journalism Award for Academic Excellence.

“A renowned Liberian journalist and adjunct faculty in the Department of Communication and Media Studies (formerly Department of Mass Communication) of the Amos C. Sawyer College of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Liberia, Mr. Frank Sainworla has been recognized as the winner of the Philip N. Wesseh Academic Excellence Print Journalism Award introduced at Amos C. Sawyer College. The award is in memory of Philip N. Wesseh, icon of print journalism in Liberia. The late Wesseh was a true leader in print journalism and professional journalist with high respect towards fair, balance, and accurate journalism,” said Prof. Dr. Moses M. Gray, Dean of the Sawyer College on May 29, 2023 on his Facebook page.

Fond memories of my departed and well-respected senior professional colleague then began to come home fresh, especially given the fact that we both are strong believers in putting theory into practice by knowledge application.

This back story is neither known by the UL Communications and Media Studies Department Chairman, Mr. Euriahs Togar, the Dean of Sawyer College, Prof. Dr. Josephus M. Gray nor the UL President Prof. Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson.

Memories of PNW came even more fresh during the formal award ceremony at the UL Fendell main campus on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. As I sat in the hall before the award was handed to be by UL President Dr. Nelson, I also reflected on the late former Mass Communications Department Chairman, Prof. Joe Mulbah. Many years ago, Prof. Mulbah hired both PNW and me the same time to serve as Teaching Assistant. This is another backstory that most would only know from this my piece.

As Journalists who see academia not only a place for theorizing, PNW and I believe in using the theoretical knowledge to guide our professional path that helps to “impact” our nation and yea the world in a positive way. This is what the keynote speaker at Tuesday Sawyer College’s Academic Excellence Recognition and Honouring Program, Rev. Dr. Hermon Brown told the audience.

Indeed, matching theory with practice to make society better is what is called applied knowledge. Like my fallen mentor, we both saw the newsroom as a professional laboratory and a theatre for sharing knowledge and experience and mentoring human resources for the future.

Before death snatched him away, PNW, who was Managing Editor of The Inquirer newspaper, earned a law degree to make him Attorney-At-Law, making him an added asset to our noble Journalism profession he loved so dearly.

To the Sawyer College, the Department of Communications and Media Studies, the UL administration and my fellow professional media colleagues in Liberia, rest assured that this lofty and prestigious honour bestowed upon me will be jealously protected. Also at Tuesday’s ceremony, another Liberian Journalist and adjunct faculty in the Department of the Department of Communication and Media Studies, Mr. Danicius Kaihenheh Sengbeh was recognized as the Most Outstanding Faculty of Communication and Media Studies for the academic year 2022, with another honour going to a Media and English Instructor, Cllr. M. Bedor-wlah Freeman.

True demonstration of good Journalism is upholding professional commitment to public service, love for country (patriotism) through hell or high waters.

My winning the Philip N. Wesseh Print Journalism Award 2023 is indeed an historical coincidence, fate has decided. It has turned out to be no accident.

And as my fallen mentor, big brother and professional colleague, PNW famously signed off in his many Journalistic pieces: “I rest my case”.

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