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France
Online News in Europe
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France, the land that gave us existentialism and ennui, has what you might call a laissez-faire attitude toward online publishing.

Newsrooms have been set up in a way that separated the print and online staffs. Often they are not even in the same room, the same building or the same part of town.

Herv? Cassagne, who runs the French online media mailing list, JLISTE,  describes the mindset this way: "The first reactions from 'traditional' journalists here in France were of great reluctance and fear that the Internet might lower standards and have a bad impact on the quality of news. And all sides agree that the Net should not be the realm of second-rate Matt Drudge journalism.

"However, I am convinced that this defense of 'traditional' journalism was only a way for some people to protect themselves, so that they would not have to change the way they practiced journalism. Now that the new-economy bubble has exploded, the resistance is all the stronger."

The budget crunch has meant more pressure and fewer resources, he says. "That has caused many good journalists, especially young ones, to consider leaving the online medium for print because the opportunities for creativity seem so limited. Also, newsrooms have been set up in a way that separated the print and online staffs. Often they are not even in the same room, the same building or the same part of town. As a result, the online journalists are not really treated as part of the staff.

"Everybody has been through a huge crisis, and the main thought now is on how online news can survive."

Cassagne says the news site doing the most interesting work is  T?l?rama, the Web site of one of France's leading cultural magazines. The site, he says, brims with interactivity, user forums and multimedia content. He also has praise for two Benchmark Group publications, the Internet business portal Le Journal du Net and the consumer site L'Internaute.
 
As for Le Monde, the internationally respected newspaper with a separate online staff (Le Monde Interactif), Cassagne says, "They are doing a good job at publishing online the articles from their print edition. They also manage to keep the online content up to date. However, the Web site does not have a life of its own. That's partly a financial issue. Almost nobody makes any money with online news here. And although they are planning to introduce subscription-only premium services, their main goal seems to be to get new readers and subscribers for the print edition."
 
Cassagne says Le Monde undertook an intriguing experiment two years ago. It decided to largely discard the newspaper model by launching "tout.lemonde.fr,"  a news portal that took aim at U.S. interlopers like Yahoo, AOL and MSN. But the experiment ended about a year ago, and the site returned to closely mirroring the newspaper's content.

Other online journalists in France point to the business publications Les Echos and La Tribune as doing exemplary work on the Web. But beyond that, the pickings are slim. Le Figaro drastically cut back its site last December, le Parisien is nothing to write home about, and Lib?ration, one of the oldest news sites on the Web, recently fired half its online staff.

Emmanuelle Richard, a Los Angeles-based correspondent for French media, says, "Frankly, I more often visit Quebec-based or Swiss-based sites to find news in French. Those countries have richer sites with friendlier archiving policies."

Noteworthy sites

Le Monde
T?l?rama
La Tribune

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