French Voiceless Find Outlet Online ; Citizen Journalism Blog Gives a Platform to Those in Impoverished Suburbs

By Alami, Aida | International New York Times, July 6, 2015 | Go to article overview

French Voiceless Find Outlet Online ; Citizen Journalism Blog Gives a Platform to Those in Impoverished Suburbs


Alami, Aida, International New York Times


Self-described citizen journalism, the Bondy Blog gives a platform to those in the city's poor suburbs, regularly reporting on politics and social issues.

They gather every Tuesday for a staff meeting, bloggers, journalists and young people from the impoverished Paris suburbs, at the offices of the Bondy Blog, named for the surrounding neighborhood. The subject of a recent meeting: how best to challenge the leader of the Socialist Party, Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, during his appearance on a monthly talk show, "The Bondy Blog Cafe."

"Like in every love story, there is disillusion," Nordine Nabili, the publisher of the blog, told his rapt audience, crammed around a table in one of the offices last month.

The Socialists received a large share of the vote in Bondy and in other banlieues, as the suburbs are known, in the 2012 elections that propelled the party's candidate, President Francois Hollande, into office. But those suburban supporters, many of them immigrants, say they have little to show for it.

"At this point, nobody here even cares if the National Front is elected," one of the attendees said, referring to the far-right party. "They have lost hope in this government."

The blog, which was created during the riots that spread through France in 2005, gives a voice to groups often underrepresented in mainstream news media coverage. Self-described citizen journalism, the Bondy Blog regularly reports on politics and social issues, with many of the writers sharing scenes and moments from their lives at work or in the neighborhood.

The blog, which has 220,000 visitors a month, has won awards for its work, and its journalists regularly collaborate with outlets like Telerama, Elle, Le Monde.fr, Canal Plus, L'Obs and Radio France.

Over the years, the blog has evolved into a rich source for scholars, journalists and activists interested in the banlieues, said Hisham D. Aidi, a Columbia University researcher and the author of "Rebel Music," a study on Muslim youth politics in Europe and the United States that discusses the Bondy Blog.

"The French establishment is a little uncomfortable with them," Mr. Aidi said in an interview. "The American Embassy often consults and invites the journalists to come to the United States. It gives voices to banlieue residents. Most of the journalists are from the community, and of immigrant background. And now they will send a journalist to do a story on police brutality in the U.S., or if Muslims are better off in America."

While some in the establishment may be uncomfortable with the Bondy Blog, that has not stopped a procession of politicians from making the pilgrimage to its offices.

"Politicians jostle to come here," Mr. Nabili said with a smile after the prep session, standing in front of a board full of newspaper and magazine covers and clips that mention the blog. "We are over-quoted in the media, because there is a huge void in these neighborhoods to fill. …

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