Tuesday, July 14, 2009

International journalism...sorta

In honor of Bastille Day, an "important time to recall justice and equity," here is a look at some current info on French journalism....

France has three major dailies: Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Libération. Le Monde, which means "The World," is considered the French newspaper of record. It has existed for less than a century, having taken over the format of Le Temps ("The Time") after World War II at the request of Charles de Gaulle. Le Temps was suspended November 30, 1942, after accusations of collaboration with the German occupation. Le Monde went into print on November 19, 1944.

Le Figaro was started as a satirical weekly newspaper in 1826 and evolved into a daily in 1866. It is a conservative paper.

Libération. also known as Libé, is the youngest, founded in 1973 by Sartre (the father of existentialism. And in an eerie domestic arrangement Simone de Beauvoir called "The Family," but that's beside the point). It was originally a leftist paper - where all staff from the editor to the janitor received the same salary - but has moved more to the center-left (and a "normal" pay scale). It's gone through quite a shakeup in the last few years, as it needed money, took on an investor (Edouard Rothschild) who claimed he wouldn't interfere, then said he wouldn't invest more money unless the editor, Serge July (also a co-founder) and Louis Dreyfus (the "directeur général") resigned. A total of close to 150 people have resigned, been laid off, or dismissed since the beginning of Rothschild's involvement.

There are many comparisons between French and American journalism out there. Still an initiate to the world of journalism myself, I was a little surprised to find that comparative journalism is already a sub-field. One practitioner, Rodney Benson, said in an interview with PressThink, " What’s different then is that the journalistic voice in the French press is more overt."

The French press tends to be opinionated and editorial, but Benson praises its mix of "context, interpretation, and judgment" within its dailies - more affordable and widely read than the U.S. opnion magazines - as a vehicle to foster a more truly national debate.

This comparison doesn't go into great depth, but it's a thorough and intriguing analysis of the differences between one American and one French journalist, covering the same event in Russia, who both won their nations' highest prizes (the Pulitzer and the Prix Albert Londres).

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