By: Alexandria Geisler
Revered French newspaper Le Monde, known for its relatively leftist to moderate viewpoints, named Sylvie Kauffmann Executive Director of the publication earlier this year. Kauffmann’s appointment marks the first time a female has occupied the editorial position of the newspaper, founded in 1944. Kauffmann replaced Alain Frachon, the previous executive editor who held the position for 2 years.
Sylvie Kauffmann began her career at Agence France-Presse, the prominent French news agency, before moving to Le Monde in 1988 as an expert in Eastern European politics. As her career progressed, she became the paper’s correspondent in both Asia and the United States, before finally landing her title as Editor. While insisting her gender was not taken into account in determining her new position, she refers to her succession as, “the final stage in the evolution of the newspaper.”
Kauffmann’s future plans for Le Monde? The Editor detailed in an interview with journalist David Medioni that she hopes to model the paper off of New York’s slogan, “the city that never sleeps,” creating a newspaper “qui ne dort jamais.” She challenges the members of the staff at Le Monde to act as great journalists: “ones who watch, analyze, question, and doubt,” in order to produce effective and empowering news for France’s citizens.
The installment of the new Executive Director coincided with another revolutionary transformation at the newspaper, however. 2010 marked Le Monde’s urgent need for recapitalization, lest they would be unable to pay their staff by mid-year. Kauffmann set out to find investors for the newspaper notorious for its editorial independence. Unlike any other esteemed publication, the staff of Le Monde traditionally held “a controlling stake in the company”, as well as the power to “veto the choice of editor, policy, and strategy.”
The pressure on Sylvie Kauffmann, as well as chairman Eric Fottorino, to maintain independence while obtaining financial support culminated this past June. On June 28, the newspaper accepted the investment offer of Pierre Berge, Xavier Niel, and Matthieu Pigasse (BNP) in a vote of 11 to 9.
As the dust begins to settle this winter and the investors begin to take hold, staff members look to Kauffmann to defend and protect their journalistic independence. She assures that the refinancing will have no effect, given “that everyone remains working to the best of their abilities.” Whether or not Kauffmann is correct remains to be seen; yet her steadfastness and guidance thus far serve as one large step for female journalists everywhere.