Friday, June 24, 2011

Le Monde and the future of newspapers

Beeing the adviser of the societe des redacteurs du Monde, the organization of the famous newspaper's journalists, I attended yesterday their annual meeting. The climate was not good. 35 journalists are leaving after the takeover by the new owners. Only seven have been replaced as of yesterday. The figures of avertising and circulation are going South. The printers union or, rather the two printers unions are on strike, once or twice a week, to prevent a necessary reduction of the plethoric staff of the presses. Nobody knows for sure what the three shareholders, Bergé, Niel and Pigasse (BNP) intend to do in the long term.

So the journalists were down and pessimistic and yet, I think they were wrong. If one thinks that the content is more important than any kind of support or delivery system, then Le Monde is far ahead in the competition. When a big event occurs readers rush to the newspaper or its website. When you look at its Internet audience, you realize that it is the major news provider in the French speaking community. It seems obvious that money can be done out of it. If the printing question is solved, if advertising works better, if Internet and the print merge harmoniously, Le Monde would face a bright future. Of course, it will be a very different newspaper but it will live. It was the message I tried to convey to my friends. I hope they listened.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the Washington Post and the Web journalism

When the press was allowed to look through the 25000 e-mails exchanged by Sarah Palin when she was governor of Alaska, the newspapers faced a quandary: this piece of news was fascinating but hard to exploit with the reduced staff of the most prestigious dailies. The Washington Post, like some of its colleagues, decided to ask for volunteers to go on their behalf to Anchorage and work on this amazing amount of documents. Several hundred people were eager to do it. However, as the ombudsman of the WP had to admit, the end result was uneven. Many volunteers had no experience of journalism and ignored the intricacies of the government of Alaska. To them, most of the blogs were impossible to decipher while they were extremely clear to the few journalists specialized in Anchorage and petrol politics.

So, the ombudsman had to reckon lamely that sometimes a good journalist could do a good job. (see

And it is obvious that Google is not the solution. On the website of the New York Review of Books (, Sue Halpern reveals the way the new algorithms of the Web giant function. When you look for a word, the answer you get takes into account your previous searches. It means that the answer is adjusted to the mind of the internaut. It also means that two people looking for the same words, for instance "the climate evolution", get different answers, according to their idiosyncrasies. However, they have no way to check and everybody is convinced he gets the same items than his neighbour. So Google acts exactly against the basic laws of information while pretending to inform everybody.

all that means there is a future for quality information.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

the price of the news

Last week, there was a buzz on the Web about the blog of the syrian lesbian woman who was supposedly arrested by the Syrian police. Fortunately, some Internet detectives relized that nobody had ever had a direct contact with this victim of a police state. We know now that the author of the blog, Mr Mac Gregor is a US citizen from Georgia who said he wanted to attract the attention of the public to the crimes of the Syrian government.

This stort brings a lot of comfort to the old fashioned newspapers people, including myself. It proves that it is a necessary if painful task to check facts and to know who speaks about what. As I am in an optimisitic mood, I will say that I believe that more and more people are aware of this necessity as good information is the blood of democracy. It is a fact that the Syrian hoax was possible only because there is no freedom in Assad's country. It is also a fact that information is a costly process but we must repeat endlessly that people must be willing to pay if they want to receive an acurate picture of the world wher they live.