The New York Times today ran a story on the French reporters covering the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case from hotel rooms and street corners in New York City. It's a fitting follow up to the paper's City Room blog post from Friday in which John Eligon recalls getting pounced on for interviews by French journalists after he filed a video report. The French are fascinated by the way the Americans are covering the story and we, in turn, are fascinated by them.
That circle of covering the coverage comes, in part, from the sheer mass of media with headquarters or large bureaus already in New York. As the Times's international and business focus on the political and economic ramifications of the head of the International Monetary Fund getting arrested for a violent sexual crime, the city desk focuses on the crime itself. And nobody has to leave the city limits.
Meanwhile, the French journalists, many of whom rushed to New York within hours of the arrest and plan to stay several more weeks for this one story, are getting antsy. "After a while, you need angles," France-24 correspondent Emmanuel Saint-Martin told Eligon. And that's true in reverse, too. The story continues to fascinate even though the major news of Strauss-Kahn's stint at Rikers Island, the drama of his bail hearing, and the thwarted luxury apartment rental, has largely wound down. As Ben Schwartz tweeted, "After Trump/Newt/Arnold last week, today feels like a sugar crash."
In her feature, Sarah Maslin Nir highlights the existential crises many of these reporters are facing as they rush to file update upon update to the voracious local readers.
As they dash from sidewalk scrum to their hotel rooms, their watches still set to Paris time, they grapple with competing feelings: the headiness that comes with covering what many of them call the story of a lifetime, the astonishment that a member of France’s elite is given so little deference by the American news media, and some unease over their failure to report Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s treatment of women in the past.
The more serious concerns of the French reaction to American images of Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs emerged last week. Local station New York 1 interviewed some visiting correspondants on that topic last Friday. But the more mundane details of the journalists' circumstances give that peek behind the scenes, that we love so much, of how this media machine works. Nir provided such a glimpse in her story today.
Anne Lamotte, a reporter for Radio France, left her country so quickly that she barely packed. “I only brought these jeans,” she said, adding that she had recently learned she was to stay in New York well into June.
And after a hard week of reporting, when local journalists get to schlep home to their apartments to catch up on sleep or with friends, the French reporters are still far from home, and far from down time.
Ms. Lamotte and her radio colleagues took tiny breaks between taping segments to dash down to the hotel’s bar and have a cocktail before heading back to work. “So it feels like we are living,” she said.
In examining the way this story is covered, and the people who are doing the coverage, we can understand better the news we read on the front pages and during the main broadcasts, as well as the cultures that shape it. In its Friday broadcast, WNYC's On the Media interviewed NPR's Paris correspondent, Eleanor Beardsley, who suggested the Strauss-Kahn story may actually serve to sway the French press toward a more critical view of figures of power in that country. The story has also made some American outlets question the fairness of the "perp walk," one of the major French gripes about how the story was handled. First, however, everybody needs to get home for a shower and a change of jeans.