Open journalism: the committed free press of Paris

StreetPress, an urban online media, promotes participatory and committed information. It makes everyone a contributor and has set up a school teaching journalism.

NOV 2016 A year on, what is the feeling in Paris?
Created by: Greymakers(@greymakers) Texts by: Sophie Lauth Photography by: Lewis Joly

« Paris is just as much about people who go out after 2am and who spend money like water, as people who don’t have enough money to eat, as people who live in the 16th arrondissement Traditional upper class arrondissement on the west side of the capital. who have no idea of how the Chinese community of BellevilleCosmopolitan area in the 19th arrondissement in the north east of Paris, currently being gentrified. » Johan Weisz starts off when we begin to talk about the French capital. Through his love for this special urban identity and his desire to share it with Parisians, the thirty year old found the web magazine StreetPress in 2009.

The editorial office is set up on the ground floor of an HLM blockLow rent housing or Social housing, for low-income households. just a stone’s throw away from the Canal Saint-Martin and the buzzing underground station of Jaurès and « this is no coincidence » continued Johan. The window, barely covered by posters, is almost part of the street. No guard on duty at the door (since Charlie Hebdo it has become the norm in other editorial offices) but a big table, a sofa and a coffee machine. This is Streetpress: an opening, which from the outset, has become the DNA of the media.

Openness and diversity

« By its very nature, media is a black box, considers Johan. When they read about a subject, readers are unaware of how the information has been crafted. » To change this situation, StreetPress opens its editorial meetings to the public, anyone can come along. « Of course, it will never be black and white or totally transparent he admits, but we are really trying to make the delivery of information the lightest grey possible ». People can also go through the door to suggest a topic. Without being a journalist, a Parisian can become a contributor to the site.

This diversity is the strength of this urban press, when other papers, subjected to the diktat of the buzz, deal with information superficially. This participatory working means StreetPress has become full of topics taken directly from the street such as this report on a working class area within a trendy suburb, a portrait of a speech therapist teaching transsexuals how to feminize their voices or the vidéo of a « low rider crew » .

Before reaching this workable democratic balance, StreetPress trialled many things « for example, training young people in street micro journalism in the working class areas » explains Johan, for whom « opening up the written media to Parisians remains a challenge! » .
Today, this « popular education in journalism » which he promotes, is done by a team: around ten journalists, video reporters and photographers who oversee contributors. The community leads this battle even beyond the editorials with a training programme and a media incubator.

« Paris is a society on its own and we are there to encourage democratic debate. Our role is to ask questions without lecturing. »

Committed to Paris

StreetSchool is the free school of StreetPress which has been training online journalists for 5 years. To apply for it, no qualifications are required, you just need to be between 20 and 30. Approved by the French government, 75% of its past apprentices are now journalists. In 2015, Mediamaker was created to find and encourage innovative media. « We started it to share the crap of starting out » laughs Johan. It is above all a helping hand for the best projects to get on a network and to benefit from financial aid.

Open, educational and democratic, StreetPress is a media committed to Paris. Without partisan links but with investment on the ground: « each time an article is written, we spend time with a person or in a place, as opposed to a journalist who comes up and gets a few quotes. We are there to scratch the surface and get beyond the obvious. » This undertaking could have been put into question when the journalists of Charlie Hebdo were murdered by terrorists. The editorial team and Joyan then published a forum « Why the murder is making (bigger) fools of us » as well as an appeal « France don’t panic ». This exercise is cathartic but the decision to « carry on as if nothing happened » is firm.

A few months later, the attacks of 13 November 2015, scarred Paris. The commitment remained intact, but now the team realised, « that after this second attack a generation was going to be hammered, and we needed to be ready for it. This time, our therapeutic approach was to analyse how other capital cities faced the threat of terrorism and how new generations reacted to it ».

When I ask him how, one year on, StreetPress was continuing its combat, his answer does not surprise me. « We carry on. We carry on talking even more about what Paris is doing. Because human beings have a basic need to know what is happening. It is perfectly normal to take up positions, open the debate and exercise democracy. We will continue to be the eyes, ears and even the nose of Paris » concludes Johan.

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