Thursday, February 14, 2008

Daniel: "We Were Wrong, but ..."

Jean Daniel, the grand old man of Le Nouvel Obs, after a fair amount of tergiversation, finally comes right out and says it: "We were wrong." This of the decision to publish--"on our Web site, not in the magazine," as if this were somehow exculpatory--a text message alleged to have been sent by Sarkozy to his ex-wife. "If I had had the information that Airy Routier had, I would have been quick to avert my eyes." One senses something of the internal donnybrook to which this incident must have given rise at Le Nouvel Obs.

All this is to Daniel's credit. Less so is his effort to divert attention from the obvious breach of his own sense of journalistic ethics to Sarkozy's alleged part in "enticing" the press onto the forbidden terrain of his private life. What appears in the press is the responsibility of journalists. Politicians will seek whatever advantage they can gain, and if they sense a willingness of the press to lower the tone or shift the emphasis from public debate to private life and "personality," they will exploit it. Jean Daniel, as le doyen of the French press corps, friend of Albert Camus, and persistent voice for ethical journalism, knows that better than anyone. He shouldn't be shifting blame for what he clearly believes to have been a serious mistake by one of his own reporters.

Daniel concludes his editorial by saying that he will support the magazine in defending its errant reporter against criminal charges brought by Sarkozy. I'm less sure about the justification for criminal charges than I am about the journalist's transgression of ethical boundaries, so I won't protest this decision of Daniel's. The important point is that Le Nouvel Obs reset the needle of its moral compass, and Daniel's editorial is a first step.

Thanks to MY for the pointer.

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