Vickie Remoe: Digital media as a vehicle for change

Vickie Remoe
Tell Us, who is Vickie Remoe?

I’m a TV journalist and entrepreneur best known for The Vickie Remoe Show, and the campaign to #MakeSierraLeoneFamous.  I’m also the founder of Sierra Leone’s longest running news and entertainment blog for Millenials––SwitSalone.

When I’m not presenting the Vickie Remoe Show which launched in 2009, I lead a team of West African communications professionals and content producers at my marketing firm. VR&C Marketing is a digital first media production, public relations and marketing firm I founded in 2013 in Accra.

I’m a children’s book author, a trainee with Sierra Leone’s national dance troupe, a political analyst, and I’m still the only woman to have climbed a tree to tap palm wine on TV. 

 

Wow. You are involved in a lot of projects. Could you please tell us more about them?

Whether online, on TV, or in my children’s books, my goal is the same––tell stories that represent my culture, my community, and my continent.

I use a multidisciplinary approach to achieve this objective because each medium has a limitation. I take a lot of inspiration from Senegalese filmmaker Sembene Ousmane. He started out as a writer. When he realized that writing French books made them inaccessible to the masses, he switched to filmmaking.

Broadcasting  is still the best way to reach African audiences. So the Vickie Remoe Show is on national television in Sierra Leone and on DSTV Channel 399. My podcast, Make Sierra Leone Famous is on all digital streaming platforms but it also broadcasts locally on Radio Democracy 98.1.

SwitSalone which is the oldest and most popular blog in Sierra Leone publishes news and entertainment for Millenials at home and abroad.

My children’s books––Adama Loves Akara, A Print for Ami, and the two others currently in illustration teach vowel sounds to young children and culture. My books are used in schools across the globe to educate children about African culture.

Vickie Remoe reading one of her children books

Since 2006 when I published my first blog, my mission hasn’t changed––I tell stories about my life, culture and country that are complex, diverse, and dignifying.

 

You use your platform to address social issues. Tell us about the impact you think that has had.

While digital media offers everyone the opportunity to tell their story, much of the continent still experiences barriers to access. Whether its high cost of data or digital illiteracy most Africans still can’t use the internet.

As a journalist and a digital entrepreneur I have a unique advantage. I have both a large online following as well as the reporting and narrative skills to amplify stories about social issues.

In 2019, a story I reported on the rape of a girl. That blog was the catalyst for a national movement against child rape. My story inspired a campaign that changed the law to offer more protection for children.  

The government also passed hasher sentencing for perpetrators of sexual violence against children.  

In 2020, I founded and led a citizen response to the covid-19 pandemic. When the borders closed I was in Freetown. Doctors needed medical supplies so I turned to my online community and crowd sourced $60,000 and thousands more in inkind donations. We used those funds to supply medicines, equipment and cleaning materials to over a dozen Covid-19 treatment facilities.

Those of us on the continent who have digital access have a unique opportunity to disrupt the media within our own countries to advocate for others. I try to do my part no matter the cost because If not me, then who?

 

What would you say has been the most fulfilling part of your career?

Hands down it’s the people I’ve trained, mentored or inspired both as a TV journalist and by expanding Sierra Leone’s presence on the internet.

When I first started out in TV in 2009, I was the only young person or woman on television telling human interest, and making documentaries. The Vickie Remoe Show was the first independent TV series in post war Sierra Leone. Today there are broadcasters who watched me growing up and are second-generation voices on TV.

I’ve equipped over 400 creatives and entrepreneurs in digital skills including blogging, content and digital marketing. My free digital masterclasses hav made hundreds of young people more employable or better entrepreneurs.

I’m proud to say that I’ve done more than anyone else to Make Sierra Leone Famous online by supporting the growth of the local digital media ecosystem.

 

What part do you think Digital Media plays in getting authentic African stories out there?

Digital has revolutionized and democratized media distribution. For communities, and cultures previously under represented in traditional media, digital allows us to disrupt. On the one hand we can produce and publish our own voices stories away from the white gaze but also and equally as important we can provide real time feedback and counter narratives when they get it wrong. For example, if the NYTimes, CNN, or BBC publish an African story that’s racist or inaccurate, digital media allows African audiences to give that feedback on places like Twitter, and in the comments section.

So apart from the way digital allows new voices to emerge it also allows us to tell our side of the story to counter negative “dark continent” tropes in the media.

 

Interesting! We really can feel the passion you have for what you do. But do you ever get unmotivated? How do you get over that?

I get burned out but never unmotivated. I love my work because self-employment has given me the freedom to design a healthy work life balance. Toxic productivity is what I struggle with. Growing up in the US, I developed unhealthy work habits that put equated “high output” as the only value and prioritized work over wellbeing.

I have had to learn (through coaching and therapy) how to separate what I do for work from who I am. A life coach taught me to optimize for my joy, freedom and pleasure.

My work is what I do but it is not who I am. I am a woman, partner, friend, mother, daughter, citizen, and creative. There are  relationships, and spaces that help me expand and keep me balanced. I nurture them. Whenever my balance is off, I stop and recalibrate because I know I cant give my best if I’m not at my best––mind, body, and spirit.

 

Could you please share a few tips to the younger generation that are considering Digital Media/Journalism as a career?

Journalism is one thing and digital media is something else. For those who are interested in journalism the best journalists are those who remember that the story is not about them. If you want to pursue a career in journalism you need to be fair, aware of your biases, and understand that providing the news is a public service. Lastly, you have to be willing to let the story lead and to follow where it goes without prejudice.

Digital media is still the media. It is much too vast for me to give any specific tips. What digital media offers is an opportunity for anyone to become a publisher or content creator. Media distribution is now in each of our hands––you have the power. But the key to digital media success is digital skills and literacy. For content creators and publishers who already have the skills if they can be consistent, authentic, and offer fascinating, meaningful, local content, they will thrive.

 

What would you say to your younger self?

The one thing I would say to my younger self is––you’re on the right track. Keep embracing social justice issues especially those that don’t directly affect you. You’re going to make your community and the world a better place every time you speak up and show up for what’s right.

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