About six weeks ago I had an email from a Canadian journalist friend, based in Paris, asking me if I’d heard: Nicolas and Carla had separated. Even though I now live far, far away from the Parisian chattering classes, I had indeed heard the rumour. I was not very surprised or very interested and I did not take up my friend’s suggestion to blog about it.
Yesterday, though, I received three phone calls from British journalists (The Mail, The Express and The Telegraph) asking me to comment on the news. Their fascination did not surprise me, nor did the fact that Carla and Nicolas were already having affairs (they have never hidden their roving, predatory natures from anyone, least of all each other). What did surprise me was that the story had broken in France.
What is new and interesting about it all is the breach of French journalistic protocol that led to disclosure. In choosing to relay the rumour, albeit on one of its blogs as opposed to on its pages, the Journal du Dimanche was, for the first time, braving presidential wrath and potential ostracism by violating a sacred realm: Le Jardin Secret.
Lest we forget: for almost two decades Paris eagerly discussed the story of Mitterrand’s mistress, Anne Pingeot and their ‘secret’ love chid, Mazarine but nobody ever reported on it: not, that is, until the President finally gave the go-ahead and invited Paris Match in to photograph his beautiful and accomplished daughter.
It has long been a fundamental principle in France that a person’s private life, even a public person’s private life, should not become news. It is one thing for France’s celebrity magazines to stoop to Anglo-Saxon sensationalism but Le Journal du Dimanche…Is this is le debut de la fin?