A Crash Course in American Media

August 14, 2012

Lamii Kpargoi’s long history of work and deep passion for the ideas of democracy and the rule of law led him to a Community Solutions Program exchange.

“I currently work in community development in Liberia,” says Lamii. “My job specifically involves me working with the Liberian media sectors. As Program Director at the Liberia Media Center (LMC), I oversee programs regarding community radio development and rights media.”

“I saw the Community Solutions Program as the perfect opportunity to gain valuable media experience from a Western standpoint and hoped to bring the skills I learned back home to Liberia.”

After researching the staff of his new organization—Voice of San Diego (VOSD) -- Lamii learned he would be the only person of African descent and was nervous about how his coworkers would react to the color of his skin.

“I wasn’t really sure how people at my host organization were going to react to me as I was the only black person that was going to be working there,” says Lamii. “I can say with all certainty that I was treated with the same level of respect accorded every other person on the staff. I can say no one even noticed my color.”

“Everyone on the staff did their best to make me comfortable and feel at home from the day I arrived to my departure. One of my coworkers went out of his way to show me around San Diego,” says Lamii. “He even took me mountain hiking in Idllywide. We went up to one of the highest points of the San Jacinto Mountain.”

Relieved, Lamii began to bond with his new coworkers but was having trouble finding housing for the remainder of his program.

“After arriving in San Diego, it was hard to find suitable accommodations. Because of the relatively short four-month period I had to stay in the area, I experienced competition from other long term renters. As a result, many of the places that I scouted were given to others.” “But with my five days of temporary accommodations running out, I was able to secure a place virtually on the last of those five days.”

During his program, Lamii contributed critical work to his office while learning more about American media.

“All my days were different,” says Lamii. “I would craft questions for the mayoral poll column I worked on and submit to the editor for approval. When approved, I send the questions to the 15 mayoral campaigns with a deadline at which I expected to hear back from them. On some days I went out to cover activities with other reporters at city hall or in the neighborhoods.

“I picked up many new concepts, but one that I’m going to bring back to Liberia is fact checking. I really got drawn to it as an accountability tool. My experience in San Diego has invigorated me to change the way media works in Liberia. The efficient set up and operation I experienced at VOSD was an impacting one.”