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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January 2005, 14:09 GMT
France cherishes children's paper
Hugh Schofield visits a leading French newspaper which, in its 10th year of publication, is as old as its target audience.

At a newspaper office in the Marais district of Paris, a group of people is discussing whether the next edition should lead with graphic pictures of British army abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Mon Quotidien
News meeting: Children take part in editorial decisions

"I think we need to do the story, but personally I wouldn't show the

photographs," says Kajetan. Juliette agrees: "They are not good to look at."

So an editorial decision is taken: abuse story, but no pictures.

A banal exchange in a press-room anywhere - with the difference that those taking part are 10-year-olds.

Happy triangle

This month, the world's only daily newspaper for children celebrates its 10th birthday.

Mon Quotidien (My Daily) has a print-run of 65,000, it is delivered every weekday morning to households across the country, and provides a colourful mix of hard news and human interest.

We always accept the decisions they make - there are no vetoes
Olivier Gasselin,
Deputy editor-in-chief

But unlike Liberation or Le Figaro, the paper is consumed not over cigarettes and coffee - but a glass of milk at tea-time. Readers are 10 to 14-year-olds and - if the fast-growing sales figures are anything to go by - they love it.

"At the start no one thought it would work because, let's face it, France is not a country where a lot of people read newspapers," says founder and editor-in-chief Francois Dufour.

"But after two years it suddenly took off. Today we benefit from what I call a virtuous triangle: children who like to read news that is directed at them; parents who just like their children to read full stop; and teachers who welcome material that feeds into the school curriculum."

For under half a euro (30p), subscribers get eight heavily-illustrated pages of brief news stories, cartoons and novelty items like word of the day.

The principle is that there should be no more than 10 minutes' worth of reading material, which specialists say is realistic at the end of a school day.

No pink

There is a strong emphasis on the environment and science and on stories involving children. Much of it is light-hearted - with a concentration on the offbeat and the humorous.

But there is no shying away from the darker side of life.

"Our motto is 'show the truth'," says Mr Dufour, who started the paper in 1995 with profits from a successful venture in educational quiz cards.

Francois Dufour
Founder Francois Dufour: "We do not do Walt Disney"

"We do not do Walt Disney and we do not paint in pink. We show the reality. Now reality is often shocking enough - so we do not use the most shocking pictures. But after the tsunami we did show dead bodies," he says.

To keep in touch with its readership, twice a week the editorial team invites three youngsters to its morning meeting. There is a long waiting-list, and for today's session a boy of 10 - Francois - has risen at 0430 to travel by train the 300 miles (482km) from Besancon with his mother.

Staffers present a list of foreign and domestic stories that are being considered for the next edition, and it is up to the children to say which they prefer and why.

"We always accept the decisions they make - there are no vetoes," says deputy editor-in-chief Olivier Gasselin.

Industry crisis

In its 10 years of existence Mon Quotidien has spawned three sister publications aimed at different age-groups: Le Petit Quotidien for eight to 10 year-olds, l'Actu for older teenagers, and most recently Quoti for very young readers.

Altogether, the four papers have daily sales of nearly 200,000 - which extraordinarily puts them ahead of such big-name titles as Liberation.

Indeed the whole of France's national newspaper industry for grown-ups is in deep crisis. It suffers from falling readership, growing competition from the internet and free sheets, as well as its own Paris-oriented elitism.

Maybe it is a children's paper that has the answer.

"It is an incredible fact that 70% of the parents who subscribe to one of our papers do not take a newspaper themselves. And it turns out that a lot of parents actually read Mon Quotidien instead of a newspaper of their own," says Mr Dufour.

"If I were to advise the big nationals I would say make yourselves more appetising and more interesting. No one wants to read about the doings of this or that minister. People want to read about people."


SEE ALSO:
Sales slump hits French press
08 Oct 04 |  Europe


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