Le Canard enchaîné

How a Chained Duck keeps France on its toes.

I don’t read the newspaper but if I did it would be Le Canard Enchaîné.

The investigative weekly first appeared in Paris in 1915. It was founded during World War I by a couple of French journalists, Maurice and Jeanne Maréchal, to help keep up moral in France. More than 100 years later the newspaper is still going strong, despite the slow demise of print media everywhere.

The title ‘Le Canard Enchaîné’ is a play on words taken from ‘canard’ (duck) which is also slang for a newspaper or what in English we might call a ‘rag’, and ‘enchaîné’ which means chained or linked. The Chained Duck has been quacking its revealing stories and satirical cartoons about the French political and business class for decades. The paper is said to have our leaders quaking in their boots. De Gaulle was known to regularly ask: “What has the bird got to say?”

Stop the press: You don’t read the paper? How do you keep yourself informed about what is really going on? I admire people who take the time to read the paper. The level of information you can get from a decent newspaper is far superior to anything available on the web, via radio or television.

France is a country with a lot of newspapers. Major dailies include Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération, Les Echos, L’Equipe…to name but a few of the national editions. Alongside these are many respected regional papers: Ouest France, La Voix du Nord, La Dépêche du Midi. The list goes on, along with many local journals and the free press (meaning the papers that are distributed for free to commuters, not necessarily ‘free’ editorially).

The Canard ensures its editorial independence by the fact that it takes no ads and is privately owned, mostly by its own employees. The newspaper practices old-school journalism, relying primarily on leaks from sources from within the government. It is available only in print in France and digitally outside of Europe.

The latest edition of the Canard features stories about shootings in Trumpland, Brexit woes and the ongoing saga of the Notre Dame renovations. The latter story has been in the news this week following revelations of extensive lead pollution resulting from the fire in the cathedral and in the surrounding streets, posing a risk to both local residents and workers. The complexity of securing the site in order to begin the renovations has proven more challenging than first imagined and it is looking like the promised timeline will not be respected. In the meantime, traditionalists and modernists debate over whether to rebuild the structure with the exact same materials, i.e. oak beams, or something more fireproof.

A suivre.

Et toi? Do you read a daily or weekly newspaper?