Thursday, March 13, 2008

With IHT in Paris

It is a bizarre situation when one of your best team members leaves your team to work for the competition. I found myself in this situation when Belgian scientist Davy Drieghe came to work for The Wall Street Journal Europe (WSJE) as an intern beginning 2004. He grew from a non paid intern to a full time team member and always showed great interest in the publishing business. He left WSJE middle 2005 for an adventurous life in Paris at The Herald International Tribune.

We still keep in contact and every time we see each other we have a clear off the record (the friendship's part) and a clear on the record conversation (the business' part).

Davy invited me to a French “steak tartare”, and he showed me how IHT is in origin and soul a French newspaper. Apparently the Paris IHT staff is convinced that moving IHT out of Paris (for example to parent company New York Times in New York) would be the beginning of the end of the newspaper. Not that this is playing at IHT headquarters (don't want to start a rumor this way!!), Davy just wanted to make a point about the 'soul' of a newspaper. He tried to prove the point by taking me to the unofficial Diana memorial near the Seine. Everybody thinks the statue (a flame) at the tunnel where Princess Diana died was erected to commemorate her life and death. So people will leave flowers and cards at the foot of the statue all the time. The truth is that the flame statue is an IHT statue. It was given by American people to the French to celebrate the centennial of IHT (1887 - 1987). The flame is therefore an exact copy of the flame held by the statue of liberty in New York.

We agreed that a city, especially a city as Paris, could act as an anchor to feed the soul of a newspaper. Which brought me to realize "shutting down Brussels" (as subject of a lot of rumors around WSJE) wouldn't hurt the soul of WSJE at all.

(pictures from left to right: Steak Tartare,
Mr. Davy Drieghe (IHT) at 'Diana' memorial,
IHT centennial plate at so called 'Diana' memorial)