The latest Sarko scandal is, by French standards, a run-of-the-mill affair: wealthy heiress, hidden slush fund, illicit donations, envelopes full of cash. But here’s the difference: French people are now able to read about each new allegation in France. The story has been broken largely by a subscription-only news website founded by a former editor of Le Monde. The Internet has smashed the oligopoly hitherto enjoyed by France’s dowdy and deferential newspapers.
But the obsequiousness of French newspapers isn’t determined by their readers’ preferences. On the contrary, in few democracies do voters express such vehement contempt for their elected representatives. No, the reason that French reporters tend to lay off their politicians is because they have a symbiotic relationship with the government. They enjoy tax breaks and other perks, many of their newspapers are related to one or another of the political parties, and privacy laws are loaded against them.
Web-based news outlets are contributing to the decline of print media in the English-speaking world. In France, where a journalistic cartel has become reliant on political patronage, their opportunity is commensurately greater. Truly the Internet is a wonderful phenomenon.Marvelous.