Le Monde’s top editor quits after rebellion

The first woman editor-in-chief of Le Monde, France’s left-leaning paper of record, stepped down on Wednesday, saying a battle with her top editors had left her no longer able to “fully” perform her duties.

Le Monde's top editor quits after rebellion
The first woman editor of one of France's leading papers resigned suddenly. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

It was a short tenure for Natalie Nougayrède at the helm of Le Monde.

Just over a year after she was named the editor-in-chief of the 60-year-old daily she announced on Wednesday her resignation from the top job in a message to AFP.

“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.”

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. 

Here's a photo of Natalie Nougayrède(Miguel Medina/AFP)

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.

The crisis at the daily comes as the press in France — as in many other Western countries — suffers as the Internet eats into readership and advertising.

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.

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