How Does Dounard Bondo Juggle Being a Lawyer and Journalist in Liberia? Read This Edition of “Doing Life With…” To Find Out
Doing Life With… is a BellaNaija Features series that showcases how people live, work, travel, care for their families and… everything in between. We are documenting the lives of people and ensuring everyone is well-represented at BN through storytelling.
Last week, we had a conversation with Victoria Nkong. Did you miss it?
Today, we’re doing life with Dounard Bondo, a Liberian lawyer and freelance journalist whose works have appeared in the New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Africa Report, Semafor Africa, The New Humanitarian, and Open Democracy. He shares how he’s been able to form a hybrid between being a lawyer and a freelance journalist living in Liberia. Enjoy!
Hello Dounard, how you are feeling today?
I am feeling good and well-rested.
That’s great! Give us a glimpse into your background and what part of your childhood that prepared you for who you are today
I grew up in a big family with parents who are quite big on education. As a kid, my dad would always bring books and assign one to each of us. Whoever finished reading and writing a summary of the book first would get a cash reward. My dad is an author himself, so he supported anything reading and writing. All these things built my love for writing and reading. Educationally, I studied law, and with 3 degrees in law from three countries. Thus, I have been able to get the requisite foundation, knowledge and exposure which has not only helped my legal practice, but it has helped my journalism as well.
3 degrees in law, that’s awesome!
Haha, I know.
So how have they – law and journalism – helped shape your career path?
I have been able to form a hybrid of sorts because I work freelance as a journalist. However, studying law has influenced and shaped my journalism. Law, at its core, involves a lot of research, reading, writing and analyses which are also core to journalism. Apart from this, there are a lot of skills that are transferable across both professions. For example, interviewing a person of interest. Lastly, my first degree in international law and diplomacy, a course that combines law, political science and intentional relations, has given me a broader understanding of local Liberian issues and stories which I usually report to a wider international audience, for example, my coverage of war crimes justice in Liberia.
Speaking of Liberia, what are some of the struggles you face as a Liberian journalist?
A key struggle is access to data and information. A lot of government and private bodies do not even have websites or platforms where public information can be easily accessed. As a result, I have to compile the data myself which can take significantly more time and energy.
Can you share your process when working on a story – from ideation to publication?
It usually starts with me finding a story idea and at this stage, I will form a mental sketch of how I want to tell the story. I will then pitch this story to an editor. If the story idea is accepted and I am commissioned, the editor and I will discuss my approach to the story, and we might tweak it if there is a need. I proceed to write the story and I go through an editing process with the editor. Afterwards, the story gets published.
Seem quite like an easy process
Not so easy, I’d say. But that’s the process.
What’s that one report you’ve worked on that made you proud of yourself?
If I were to pick, I would pick my article on Liberia’s Palaver Hut hearings which I wrote for The New Humanitarian. And this is why: I have written extensively on war crimes justice in Liberia, and while justice in the form of reparations or legal justice through a court process has seen little progress, the Palaver Hut hearings provided a semblance of justice, community healing and forgiveness through a community justice mechanism. I am quite proud of that article as I could tell a Liberian story about our local community methods by Liberians, working to bring justice for Liberians.
That’s impressive, Dounard. Let’s digress a bit from journalism. What’s a typical day in your life like – from when you wake until you go back to sleep
It’s wake up, pray, read my messages and some news stories from the day. I work full time as a lawyer so I spend most of my time at the law firm working on tasks I have been assigned. I also go to the court if there is a need. By evening, I go home to write my journalism pieces or any creative or academic piece I am working on, or I read a book. I usually end the night with food coupled with either movies or music.
Love that! 3 intriguing facts about Dounard?
I wouldn’t call it intriguing, but for a lawyer, journalist and someone who generally does a lot of talking, I have a very faint voice. Secondly, I am in love with Greek mythology, and I am a huge music head.
What’s one unconventional thought about the world you think people won’t agree with?
I think karma does not exist.
What does everyone have against Karma, haha?
See, you can put the best into the world and get nothing in return. Also, people will hurt you or commit the worst crimes known to man and they will go on to live happy lives. The idea of karma is made so that people can make themselves feel better after they have been wronged.
Hmm, interesting. One delicacy anyone coming to Liberia must taste?
Cassava Leaf and to be honest, it’s divine.
What other hobbies do you engage in when you’re not working?
I watch a lot of movies. I read a lot of fiction as well.
Let’s say you’re given 10 million today to splurge on something you’ve wanted for a long time, and within a month too, what are the first 3 things you’d do with it?
In no particular order: I will buy a house, and travel around the world, starting with a trip to see the Greek temples, and I will definitely invest the rest after taking care of my family.
Thank you for being a part of Doing Life With, Dounard
Thank you, BellaNaija, for having me.
Many thanks to Dounard for having this conversation with us and answering our questions so swiftly. Do you love this content, have any feedback for us, want to be a BellaNaija Features contributor or want to be featured on Doing Life With…? We’d love to hear from you. Shoot us an email: email@example.com
Join us on Saturday for the next episode!