by Our National Correspondent
July 30 marked the 11th anniversary of the Patriotic Vanguard newspaper published from Vancouver. In our continuing effort to profile and work with ethnic media across Canada, New Canadian Media conducted an interview by e-mail with the paper's founder and chief executive officer, Gibril Gbanabome Koroma, a Sierra Leonean journalist in exile. Koroma is pictured at right, in front of the Vancouver Public Library.
Q: It's been 11 years since you set up the Patriotic Vanguard newspaper. Why did you set it up and why did you choose the name "Patriotic Vanguard"?
Well, I came to Canada in the year 2000 because of the war in my country, Sierra Leone, and because I was a journalist back home (editor and correspondent for foreign media), I just could not stop writing. So, I contacted fellow journalists from my native country, Sierra Leone, scattered all over the world and set up the Patriotic Vanguard. As you know, it's not easy for a new immigrant to get work in Canadian media, but that did not bother me. I just created my own newspaper. Simple.
The name Patriotic Vanguard came about because we all felt we should do something for our country, even though we found ourselves elsewhere. We can live and work and contribute to say Canadian, British, Australian society and so on and still contribute to the country we left behind, a country that had done so much for us. It's okay to be patriotic towards more than one country. I love Canada and I also love Sierra Leone. I think that feeling is at the core of Canadian multiculturalism.
It's okay to be patriotic towards more than one country.
Q: Sierra Leone is a small nation and rarely makes it into Canadian (and presumably, American) news. Who is your audience and why do you think they've become fans of your newspaper?
We have a vast audience or readership of Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans scattered all over the world. This is a global online newspaper, a diaspora newspaper, which is eagerly read at home and elsewhere, every minute, very hour, every day. Just the other day, somebody contacted us from Harvard University asking for information.
Q: Do you hope to influence the government in Freetown? How?
We did not set out in 2000 to influence anybody. We only wanted to relay the news and comment on happenings back home especially when we observed a distorted presentation of news about our country in the mainstream Western media. We saw so much ignorance and sometimes outright nonsense being written about Africa and Africans, and we saw it as our duty to correct and counter such nonsense whenever we could and we are still doing it. We also publish a lot about Canada and Africans living in Canada and other western countries. Of course, our people and the government back home have very high respect for us.
We saw so much ignorance and sometimes outright nonsense being written about Africa and Africans, and we saw it as our duty to correct and counter such nonsense ...
Q: Please give us a description of how you run the paper and its online editions. Do you plan to expand?
The Patriotic Vanguard is basically an online newspaper for now, but we plan to have a print edition if we get funding, which will, of course, make it more general, incorporating news form other communities in Canada. A print edition in Sierra Leone is also being planned. We are all volunteers; nobody is paid anything.
Q: Lastly, what do Canadians need to know about the Patriotic Vanguard and Sierra Leone?
Well, a lot of Canadians already know about the Patriotic Vanguard, including you! For those who do not know about us yet, it is what is normally called an 'ethnic publication' targeting Africans everywhere, including in Canada, with special emphasis on Sierra Leone, the birthplace of the publisher (myself) and most of the staff, who are all volunteers. But as I said, we plan to expand into publishing news about other communities in Canada in a print edition if we get funding. We really want to make it a meeting place for all communities in Canada.
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