Dominique Strauss-Kahn Rape Case Has French Press Obsessed With…the American Press


The most persevering story of the week, judging by the tabloid covers at least, was that of ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was accused last Sunday of attempting to rape a hotel maid near Times Square. Since, members of the press have descended on downtown Manhattan like locusts, but far from just the locals, in part because Strauss-Kahn was widely favored to become the next president of France. Right away, the differences in coverage were apparent, with most local journalists abiding by understood U.S. standards like not printing the victim’s name, while some across the ocean immediately cried conspiracy, pursued and printed information about the accuser, and couldn’t believe that we would photograph Strauss-Kahn detained by police. As the week comes to an end, and the Strauss-Kahn news has slowed some, a portion of the French press has decided to make U.S. media their story. One New York Times reporter told his story about the story (about the story) today, and we’ll look it over inside a Friday edition of Press Clips, our daily media column.

Meta in French: Times reporter John Eligon filed a quite personal account this afternoon of his Strauss-Kahn court coverage, entitled “Strauss-Kahn Reporter Becomes Part of the Report,” but it’s more interesting than the title lets on.

In front of Manhattan Criminal Court yesterday, Eligon was swarmed by reporters:

While the French news media have obviously been rapt by the scandalous allegations against Mr. Strauss-Kahn — that he sexually assaulted a housekeeper in a luxurious suite at the Sofitel New York — they also have been fervently following the story of the story. In other words, they have been reporting as much about the way the American press is covering the case and the public is reacting to it as they are about the case itself.

Emmanuel Saint-Martin, a correspondent for the television station France24 who has been based in New York for seven years, said that part of this fascination with how Mr. Strauss-Kahn was being covered had to do with the longstanding challenge of all media: filling the news hole.

Eligon floats the idea, backed up by Saint-Martin, that if French reporters are going to be sticking around for the circus act, they need something to cover, and American reporters are good enough, especially considering the aforementioned differences in coverage. (We, too, were approached by French journalists hoping to trail us to the courtroom.)

Cameras in the courtroom “never happens in France,” Saint-Martin added. Plus, things take so long in our courts. “Ask something, you have a different answer,” he said.

But as for naming the alleged victim, the French reporter defended it, chalking that and the questions about an anti-DSK conspiracy to some sort of patriotism:

“If you have John McCain, three years ago, would have been arrested in France for something like that, I’m sure you would have had the name of the victim here in the press,” he said. “You would have concern that a foreign country arrested a U.S. politician and a lot of people not believing it’s true.”

Life Lessons: Elsewhere on the Times‘ blogs, New York Times Magazine dude-itor Hugo Lindgren stopped by his 6th Floor vertical to post a list of “Words We Don’t Say,” left behind by Kurt Andersen when he left New York magazine, where Lindgren ended up in 1997. Even “14 years later,” Lindgren writes, “it’s still a pretty useful list of phony-baloney vocabulary that editors are well-advised to excise from stories.”

The list includes “authored” and “maven” and “New York’s finest,” plus “a who’s who of,” “staffer,” “eatery,” bistro” and “comfort food.” (Food section, we’re watching you.) In the margins of the page is scribbled “avoid: decidedly.” The rest are here, complete with a rather spirited comments section.

Progress Report: Just a few months after taking over as editor-in-chief of the New York Observer, which was suffering a long while of high-turnover and other media calling it “embattled” or some variation thereof, Gawker founder-turned-boss Elizabeth Spiers says she’s righted the weekly paper’s course.

“I feel like everybody was a little bit sluggish [when I arrived] because the paper had drifted into this territory that it wasn’t quite what it used to be,” she tells Business Insider. “I think everybody is happy that it’s going back in the direction that it probably should have stayed on.” But just imagine if she was like, “It still sucks.”