Monday, July 9, 2007

Sarko the Irresistible

The Elysée announced today that for his first official journey outside Europe, Pres. Sarkozy will travel to North Africa and will be "accompanied" by Jean Daniel, the editor of Le Nouvel Obs. How very interesting. Throughout the campaign, journalists of the left worried about Sarko's close friendships with a variety of media moguls. Sober heads counseled patience. In all the media there were vigilant journalists, many with left-wing sympathies, who would remain ever watchful for signs of undue interference.

But now the doyen of the opposition press, the venerable Jean Daniel (Jean Daniel Bensaïd and a child of the Maghreb), not only agrees to "accompany" the president on an official journey but allows his participation to be announced by the Elysée. To be sure, Daniel is 87 and perhaps not the power he once was was. But shouldn't the journalists of Le Nouvel Obs be as concerned by this decision as the journalists of Le Monde apparently are by Alain Minc's role at their newspaper? Isn't Le Nouvel Obs part of the same press group? Will Jean Daniel explain why he chose to accept this role, which may not be called a "presidential mission" but has all the earmarks of one? Is this a part that an "independent press" ought to be playing? Even allowing for Jean Daniel's long-standing interest in the Maghreb, one wants to question his judgment. If he were simply covering the trip as a journalist, his participation wouldn't be announced by David Martinon, Sarko's spokesman. The appearance of co-optation is troubling.

Meanwhile, we learn that cadres like to read Le Monde and Le Nouvel Obs. The latter ranks first among "generalist weeklies" on the reading lists of cadres, although it does come third to Télérama and Equipe Magazine, which serve niche markets. So chances are good that most of France's managers, glued to the tube watching sports matches, won't even notice that Sarko has picked off another homme de gauche and enticed him into the presidential orbit.

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