When ProPublica and Frontline launched " Firestone and the Warlord," a sweeping investigation into the relationship between Liberian warlord Charles Taylor and the iconic American company Firestone, we asked ourselves how we might engage a Liberian audience around the story.
WhatsApp is a mobile chat app used by a reported 600 million people worldwide. A number of these users are from Africa. We thought this app might help us connect with the Liberian community in the U.S. and abroad. The response, so far, has been promising. Nearly 100 people are now following T. Christian Miller's updates about the investigation on their phones, including people from Brazil to Canada, from Hong Kong to Spain, and, most importantly, dozens from Liberia and Africa.
Our experiment will continue through the next several weeks, with Miller sharing updates and insights for all seven chapters of the story with our WhatsApp subscribers. International readers are also texting us questions and comments about the story and their own experiences. We'll share some of the best responses here each week.
Are you following us on WhatsApp? Chat WARLORD to ProPublica at +1 917-331-4989.
You can also join the discussion online every week in our book club forum with T. Christian Miller. On to this week's questions (edited for clarity):
Press play in the player below the question to hear T. Christian Miller's answer.
Marcela, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, asks: "How long has Mr. Miller worked on this investigation?"
Jeremy P., Toronto, Ontario, asks: "Is there currently any type of civil suit or criminal investigation into the actions of Firestone?"
Richard, Brooklyn, NY, asks: "Fascinating story but sad mostly, I don't understand how Charles Taylor escaped from prison. Did the CIA really help him?"
T. Wesley Brown, Liberia, asks: "Was it necessary for Firestone to enter into deal with Taylor?"
Damilola, Adegoke, Nigeria, asks: "But quite frankly, Charles Taylor has been sentenced to fifty years in prison. What is the main aim of this project?"
We also asked our WhatsApp followers to weigh in on our book club discussion for Chapter 1. Here are some of their answers.
Could Firestone have done more to protect its 8,000 employees?
Tawanda Kanhema, San Francisco, Calif., says...
Oliver Langama, Liberia, says: "Yes, firestone had what it takes to protect her over 80,000 employees. Firestone just did what she usually did from the time it went to Liberia and leaving their employees during the time of war was no surprised. Firestone has never been in the of her employees lest to talk of Liberia who the company felt was a place that was bought by cote on cote their fellow compatriots, and so they were so concerned of profiteering than bettering the lives of their employees (Liberian), indicative of not a single tire company that Liberia can boasts of as one of the world's biggest rubber producers."
Margaret Howard, Liberia, says: "I think Firestone would have done a better job had it not drawn a line between it and the local staff. Like they provided honest information to the Expats, they should have done the same with locals so they could make personal decisions ahead of time."
Why should we care about this story today, 25 years after the events within it happened?
Adam David Burch, Seattle, Wash., says...
Sekou A. Kweyete, Liberia, says...
You can join the discussion on WhatsApp by adding ProPublica (+1 917 331-4989) to your phone's contacts and chatting "WARLORD" to that number in WhatsApp.
You can also join the "Firestone and the Warlord" book club newsletter where we break down each chapter, pull out key points and give you a chance to discuss the investigation with reporter T. Christian Miller.