Paris Back Story: Reporting on Le Marais


(This Report was drafted on June 9)

When it rains, it pours.

That seems a fitting way to begin my Paris back story for two reasons. First, it has been raining on and off over here, which makes the city look really gloomy and depressing.

It’s also fitting because of the way my second story seems to be going. Remember how I was waxing poetic about the triumphant feeling journalists get when they pull off the impossible? It goes both ways.

Still feeling euphoric and supremely confident about my Dublin story, I arrogantly decided this morning I would try to write a story in Paris. That’s pretty ambitious, considering we have very little time here and I don’t speak the language, but I thought I might be able to pull it off with the help of our translator/fixer, Gabe Bertaccini. The idea was to write about the Marais neighborhood, which is the major enclave of both the Jewish and gay communities in Paris, and find out how the two communities interact with each other. I figured I’d just have Gabe translate for me, and Daryl would take the pictures.

The result was just one disappointment after another. It started well enough, with Gabe giving us an excellent overview of the neighborhood over a lunch of falafel and French pastries. When it came time to interview, though, it all fell apart.

First, I found out that the neighborhood associations would not talk to us. Apparently, you have to give two months’ notice in order to speak to the press office. I honestly don’t understand this policy—people don’t want to read about news two months after it happens. If something interesting happens in Le Marais and we want to ask the associations about it, are we just supposed to wait two months to publish our story?

People on the street were hesitant to talk to us. Gabe made the best of the situation by patiently taking us from one person to another, but most of them either didn’t want to talk or couldn’t understand the connection we were drawing between the Jewish and gay communities. We spoke to an old woman running a synagogue, but she was more or less senile and couldn’t tell us anything of value relating to our story. We also tried to talk to a young Jewish man working at a sushi bar, but he seemed set in the idea that we were questioning his sexual orientation. We had one decent interview with an Israeli man doing charity work in Paris, but he was a foreigner like us, and couldn’t tell us much about the neighborhood.

Daryl and Gabe think we can pull it off by the end of the week if we get in touch with a local support organization for gay Jews and do some Web researh about the history of the neighborhood, but I’m a bit skeptical. I’m more than willing to do the work, but it just seems unlikely to develop into a good story. The organization’s headquarters are on the other side of town, so I’m not sure how much they can tell us about Le Marais. Our other source (the Israeli man) is shaky at best. I’ll have to listen to the recording again. If we can schedule an interview with the gay Jewish organization and it goes well, you’ll find a story about Le Marais posted by the end of the week. If not, we’ll just have to rush to complete two stories in London.

By the way, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not having a good time here, outside of work. It’s just that the reporting, with the usual-yet-unexpected roadblocks combining with the language barrier, is proving to be even more difficult than I expected.

As the French would say, “Ces’t la vie.”


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