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September 23, 2014
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Le Monde’s first woman editor-in-chief resigns

Esteemed French newspaper Le Monde says its first woman editor-in-chief has resigned a little more than a year after taking the post, amid management disagreements and a tough market environment for French dailies.

Natalie Nougayrède wrote to Le Monde employees that she disagreed with efforts to weaken her position. In the letter, published yesterday on Le Monde’s website, Nougayrède cited “personal attacks” that impeded her plan to turn around the newspaper. She said the plan didn’t have the support it needed among shareholders.“The will of certain members of Le Monde to drastically reduce the authority of the editor-in-chief is for me incompatible with the pursuit of my mission,” Nougayrède wrote, adding she no longer had “the means to carry out, fully and in peace, my duties.”

Nougayrède is a former reporter who won France’s prestigious Albert Londres prize awarded to young journalists, for her coverage of Russia’s Chechen conflict in 2005. She became chief editor in March last year.

Her resignation comes just a week after seven of 11 of the paper’s top editors quit simultaneously over perceived editorial management missteps, which they said were stopping them doing their work properly. An added challenge has been the paper’s struggle, like many print publications, to find its footing in the digital era. A source at the paper said it was “exhausting” working under a management they said never communicates, takes decisions without consulting senior editors and fails to respond to simple organizational requests.

One the key bones of contention sprung up in February this year, when Nougayrède announced plans to combine the paper’s print and web staff, a move that would mean changes for more than 50 jobs.

Her departure is a severe turnabout from just a year ago. Under Le Monde’s byzantine rules for appointing someone to the top editing job, Nougayrède was voted in by 80 percent of the staff, a sign that she was well liked. She won the top job after the previous top editor, Erik Izraelewicz, had a heart attack in the newspaper’s offices and died.

Nougayrède, who is bilingual after growing up partly in Britain and Canada, had previously worked as a correspondent for Libération newspaper and the BBC’s French service in Eastern Europe. She joined Le Monde in 2001 to cover the same region. She was so good at her work that in 2005 she won the Prix Albert Londres, France’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, for her coverage of the Beslan siege and the Chechen conflict. She later hung up her foreign correspondent boots and became the paper’s Paris-based diplomatic correspondent.

With a circulation of over 330,000 last year, Le Monde slightly trails behind its rival Le Figaro daily. Like many newspapers around the world, the daily has been expanding its digital offering in a bid to keep its head afloat, but the internal source said management was not competent in this area.

Herald with agencies, online media

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