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End of the Line for the American Newsroom in Paris

September 30th, 2016 · 1 Comment · France, Newspapers, Paris

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For many American print journalists, it was a dream job destination.

For many American travelers, it was the essential daily reading while working or touring in Europe.

The International Herald Tribune, based in Paris.

Now, after a slow fade over the past decade, it is gone, as a Paris-based entity.

The Paris newsroom of the International New York Times, the latter-day name of an American institution which began publishing in Paris in 1887, has been closed and 69 employees laid off, including more than 30 editorial employees.

It marks the end of a marvelous era.

I have a modest newsroom connection to what commonly was known as the IHT, having worked 11 weeks in the Paris office in the summer of 2001. I did a further four months at the Hong Kong office of the IHT in the winter of 2008-09.

It was a long, slow demise for the destination newspaper of American expats.

The newspaper, originally the Paris Herald, was founded by the old New York Herald at a time when the U.S. was emerging as a global power with business interests all over the world.

The New York Herald and its Paris creation were sold to the New York Tribune in 1924, and the paper in France became known as the Paris Herald Tribune.

By the 1960s, the IHT was taken over by the New York Times and Washington Post, which gave the IHT access to stories from those important publications.

In 2003, the New York Times took full control of the IHT, buying out the Washington Post’s stake (after threatening to quit the partnership and open a competing newspaper, if the Post did not sell). That produced a less independent newspaper.

In 2009, the Times and the IHT merged websites, with the latter becoming the “international” web portal for NYT, and by then the long-term outlook for a semi-independent IHT was dire.

The last edition of the IHT that had “International Herald Tribune” on its masthead was October 14, 2013.

It was announced in April this year that the Paris newsroom would close, mostly for financial reasons.

The end of the Paris bureau as a key part of the production cycle ended on Tuesday night, when the Wednesday newspaper was put to bed.

Some in French media saw the NYT decision to get out of Paris as something of a repudiation of Europe, and France in particular, with London and Hong Kong becoming more prominent, in the NYT scheme.

IHT alumni are sad or upset, or sad and upset.

Getting another print job in Europe is difficult for Herald Tribune employees. Many of them are integrated into French society, with families and mortgages, and while they may speak French quite well, they generally would not be prime candidates for a French-language publication.

The newspaper was a very good one, often considered “an editor’s paper” because so many informed decisions needed to be made about the choice of stories available from the home newspapers, as well as that day’s wire reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. It was also a stickler for “style” in its news columns. Lots of editing rules and woe unto the newcomer who did not commit them all to memory in a few weeks.

It was a newspaper often beloved of American expats and tourists, who looked to the IHT for American comic strips and baseball line scores among other news from home otherwise unavailable on the eastern side of the Atlantic, and it later would be remembered as a significant part of that golden vacation in old Europe.

The IHT also reported on global events, especially those in Europe, and it was essential reading for Yanks who planned to have a conversation with a European pertaining to local events.

I was one of what must have been thousands of American journalists who read the IHT while vacationing in Europe — the paper was available at an astonishing number of kiosks throughout the continent — and it occurred to me in my youth that it would be a fine place to work.

To live in Paris and work there for an English-language newspaper … how grand! (And that was before I knew about the seven annual weeks of paid vacation.)

To get a sense of what it was like to work at the IHT, I would recommend the book The Imperfectionists by the IHT alumnus Tom Rachmann. The book is based in Rome, but his newsroom is populated by the sort of people who might have been found at the IHT over the past 30 years.

 

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 David // Oct 3, 2016 at 8:51 am

    I had forgotten this was coming. Should’ve kept one of the INYTs from my trip to Switzerland and Germany that wrapped up two weeks ago. For me, it remains an essential companion while traveling in Europe; I wonder how that will change now.

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