Friday, February 10, 2012

French Journalism vs. American Journalism

By Jessica Park

Paris, also known as “The City of Lights,” is famous for its monuments that bring together people from all over the world. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and The Louvre are just a few renowned sites visitors put on their agenda to see when they visit Paris. However, for our group on this trip, along with those popular sites, we were given the chance to visit different news and ad agencies and visit the school we would be studying at if we chose to study abroad in Paris.

Journalism, journalists, and reporters all seem to have the same definition no matter where you go. They all either describe the people who inform and notify people of all the information and news that are going on locally and worldly or the act of reporting the news. However, even though those words may stand the same and have the same definition in television, newspaper and radio stations all over the world, the fine lines between them change based location.

During our lecture in Paris, we were told the differences between American and French journalism. Although reporters and journalists from both countries understand that their jobs are to inform the citizens of things that are going on, what these reporters tell to their citizens seemed to vary. The biggest and most shocking difference between these two types of journalism seemed to be whether or not the journalists told the entire truth. Leaving out parts of the truth in order to protect people seemed to be a very important aspect in French journalism.

If you don’t understand what this means then here is a perfect example to describe the different views French people and journalists have compared to American citizens. In America, nobody is safe from the press. What this means is that the lives of everyone, including politicians, celebrities and athletes are all under scrutiny and they can be on the news with every scandal that may surface. For instance, President Bill Clinton, a very powerful American politician, was on the news and on the cover of every magazine when the scandal between him and Monica Lewinsky surfaced, revealing the nasty side to the former president. Television shows had his press conference for all to see and magazines and newspapers all had the different points of views from both sides of the party including, his wife, Hillary Clinton.
However, this would never have happened in France. There, the idea that scandals like this should be revealed to the public for citizens to see is 100% wrong. In France, Bill Clinton could have sued the magazine, television and newspaper companies for releasing this information and he would have won his case because of the different rules in French journalism.

During his lecture, Sciences Po University professor Peter Gumbel showed us a picture of two women mourning the death of former French president Francois Mitterand. Just by looking at the picture we could only conclude that they were two mourners at the funeral and that it could be a possibility that they had any personal relations to Mitterand. However, after further explanation, we found out that the older woman was his mistress, while the younger women who was crying next to her, was their illegitimate daughter. We were all shocked by this and began to question if everyone in France also knew this information. Gumbel continued on and told us that many people did not even know Mitterand had a mistress because due to the rule in journalism, this piece of information had been left out from the public eye.

The rule in France is basically that if any piece of information could hurt the person’s image, such as the news of Mitterand's affair, and it has nothing to do with his position in the government or company, then it needs to be left out. This means that any piece of information the press get their hands on that could hurt the way the public views this person, based on their characteristic traits and personality, needs to be kept private.

I respect French journalists and reporters very much, but this rule seems to be very misleading. Why is it that pieces of information or newsworthy topics about a certain person, need to be left out and hidden from the public because it could hurt that person’s image? I believe that if I am voting for a politician or if I am a worker at a company, then I should know anything and everything that happens to those people above me running this country or business. If a politician promises that he is going to make all these different changes in order to make this country a better place, but is doing shady things when the cameras shut off, then how can we trust that he is going to make everything better.

The public and citizens should know everything that is going on, especially when they are voting for people to take care of this country. Leaving out pieces of information just because it hurts their image seems to be very selfish on their part. I, as a voter, want to know if the person that I am voting for is a deceitful person behind the camera because that’s when a person’s true color shows. People should be given the opportunity to make their own decisions based on whether or not they want to vote for the person, instead of going into the voting booth blindsided.

Although we ended our talk about this as a group when we left the classroom, many of us still talked about this issue as the trip continued. We felt as if the citizens were being deceived without realizing it, which upset many of the members in our group. However, although this issue seemed to bring about mixed emotions from the group, I still think it would very interesting and a great experience to study abroad in Paris.

I mean if I could study abroad in Paris and eat crepes with chocolate and bananas every single day near The Eiffel Tower, I think I could almost overlook this “rule” they have in France. Well….Almost.

Click here to contact Jessica Park.

1 comment:

  1. France then has better views on journalism. I would rather choose how they bring news to the public than what Americans do.

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