November 29, 2004


If you've read DIRELAND's earlier post on the crisis at Le Monde, you won't be surprised to learn that the paper's editor, Edwy Plenel, announced his resignation today. In fact, Plenel was forced out by his erstwhile ally, the paper's CEO, Jean-Marie Colombani, who is in the middle of a deal to "recapitalize"  Le Monde, which is drowning under a tidal wave of Colombani-generated debt. Colombani released a tortured statement referring obliquely to the ethical deviations which took place under the Colombani/Plenel regime at the paper and led to a freefall in circulation, saying: ""We must take as our point of departure that our readers are correct in expressing a desire for a more exigent attitude on our part. Their unhappiness is the expression of an expectation which we must consider legitimate."

The final break between Colombani and Plenel--who attempted to displace his former co-conspirator as the paper's directeur--and the factionalized atmosphere during the last week inside Le Monde came after Plenel fought for a plan to convert the afternoon daily to a morning paper as his solution to Le Monde's financial crisis. But the plan was opposed not only by Colombani, but by the powerful printers' union, the CGT du Livre. The Communist-led union hated the morning paper plan for two reasons: first, it was the brainchild of the "cultural Trotskyist" Plenel--and the CGT, which has never really de-Stalinized, has always hated Plenel, and the Trots he imported to the paper, with a passion. Second, the well-cosseted printers (whose union has guaranteed a lot of feather-bedding) didn't want to have to go to work in the middle of the night to put out a morning paper--and they'd have made Le Monde pay through the nose for having to do so. The morning plan's price was too high--it was a non-starter.

Plenel, over-estimating his power, launched an all-out assault on Colombani last week at a meeting of the paper's Societe des redacteurs (SDR), the Le Monde journalists' association, which still controls a third of the paper's stock. But Plenel, drunk on a power-ego trip, seriously underestimated to what degree his reckless brand of journalism, and the virtual reign of terror the cult of personality he'd created around himself had engendered in the newsroom (rumors of tapped phones and computers, encouragement of co-worker spying and denunciations of Plenel's opponents, etc.), had together alienated a lot of the paper's fine journalists, appalled at the decline in Le Monde's standards and reputation. For them, the financial recklessness of Colombani the media-empire builder was the lesser of two evils, and the newsroom denizens sided against Plenel.

The atomosphere of the last week before Plenel's resignation is recounted in a short article in Tuesday's Liberation.

Posted by Direland at 06:11 PM | Permalink


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