Academic journal article Journalism History

Gender and Grand Reporting in Interwar France: Albert Londres and Andrée Viollis in Shanghai

Academic journal article Journalism History

Gender and Grand Reporting in Interwar France: Albert Londres and Andrée Viollis in Shanghai

Article excerpt

This comparison of a male and a female reporter in interwar France complicates earlier assumptions about gender distinctions in the careers and writing styles of grand reporters in France and raises questions about simple gender distinctions in the study of journalists in other countries. Unlike earlier French journalists, who wrote reflective essays and rarely visited distant sites, grand reporters traveled considerable distances to investigate major crises or to carry out "inquiries." These "special envoys" conducted interviews with participants and reported what they observed in cables that appeared on the front page above the fold, once or twice a week over the course of a month in major Parisian daily newspapers, which were also national newspapers. The most successful envoys were able to generate their own assignments, though they needed editorial approval for their expenses. Grand reporters were very popular with French newspaper readers from 1920s through the 1930s, when their subjects, predominance by expanded in the media radio was diffusion, challenged, newsreels according at cinemas, to one of and our telephotography. Andrée Viollis added "and soon by television."1 Given that French television would not begin transmitting until after the Second World War, she was very prescient, for television ended the era of grand reporting in newspapers.

Only eight of almost a hundred reporters in this golden age of French grand reporting were women.2 Did these women have different career patterns or write in a more feminine style than their male colleagues? Answering these questions by generalizing about many male and a few female grand reporters' work is a daunting task because grand reporters were prolific and had diverse interests. Moreover, researching them and their work requires extended time in the French National Library (where most of the newspapers are deposited) and several archives around France. ' After making four sets of comparisons between similar works by male and female grand reporters, we decided to focus here on the journalistic careers of two of the top eight grand reporters, Andrée Viollis and Albert Londres.4 We chose them because their lives and careers are well documented and because they covered the same topic in 1931. We analyze their newspaper series and subsequent books describing their exploits gathering information during a Japanese siege of Shanghai. Both of their works on the siege were fairly typical examples of their writing.'' We apply to their reporting styles a variation of the semantic technique of deixis, which involves

attention to words such as pronouns that require some context to understand the written passage. Specifically, we score how often and where the two authors use the first person to develop a sense of empathy in their readers and punctuation such as exclamation points to evoke strong feelings about their topics.6 Contemporaries and women's historians have called a sense of empathy and the ability to evoke feelings feminine. Our study suggests this labeling exaggerates the gender implications in grand reporting, and that a "feminine" style did not necessarily indicate the gender of the writer. Perhaps this might be the case elsewhere.

Grand reporters emerged in France in the 1890s, when some reporters began to travel to do inquiries. Some grand reporters traveled to countries of interest to the French government or to French colonies.7 Those invited by President Sadi Carnot (1887-1894) to accompany him on foreign trips had their expenses paid by the government. These subsidies fed into the widely perceived but probably exaggerated belief in the "abominable venality" of the French press.8 Grand reporters who conducted domestic inquiries certainly expressed unfavorable opinions about government repression of major strikes. The First World War halted these trends. Many dailies closed or merged, and the remainder shrunk and appeared irregularly. Heavily censored and hyper-patriotic war coverage took precedence over other news; serial novels and specialty pages disappeared. …

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