Over the last century, some of these Americans have made a significant impact in readers’ understanding of France and the events of the day, and in the process, becoming iconic figures themselves.
Most famous is Ernest Hemingway, though later known for his stories and novels, rather than his earlier journalism. Yet he first came to Paris—the period he wrote about most famously in A Moveable Feast—as a correspondent for the Toronto Star in 1921, covering human-interest stories and some politics.
The longest serving Paris correspondent was The New Yorker’s Janet Flanner (1892-1978), who under the pen name “Genêt,” and with the exception of the years of German occupation, wrote a twice-monthly “Paris Letter” from 1925 until 1975. Her column had the flair of a patron of the arts; she was less a news reporter than a recorder of the goings-on in the French capital for Francophiles, introducing readers to popular restaurants as well as artists like Picasso, Matisse and others, and chronicled in her earliest days the closing chapter of the so-called Lost Generation of the 1920s. But she also wrote of the political scene, particularly in later years during the tumult and protests of May 1968, and was an instrumental part of defining Paris for New Yorker readers, becoming a notable figure herself.
While many a war correspondent passed through Paris during the end of World War II, it was the post-war years, and the country and continent rebuilding itself after such calamity, that brought young men like Art Buchwald and Stanley Karnow. Both men, born in 1925 and arriving in Paris within months of each other in the late 1940s after serving in World War II, had very different experiences as journalists.
Buchwald, who died in 2007, began writing for the entertainment industry publication Variety. A year later he joined the staff of the International Herald Tribune, then known as the New York-Herald Tribune, as a columnist. His column from Paris ran until 1962 when he returned to the United States and went on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist.
Karnow, a reporter for Time Magazine, wasn’t particularly known by name during his tenure in Paris given Time’s practice of largely uncredited articles. Though the Pulitzer-winning journalist went on to renown covering the Vietnam War for Time from the war’s earliest days in 1959, his 1997 memoir Paris in the Fifties is a detailed reminiscence of his decade in Paris as a reporter beginning as a student after the war. Much of the contents of his lengthy dispatches sent each week to New York wasn’t used, and it is that reporting “string” that serves as the foundation for his memoir.
C.L. Sulzberger (1912-1993) , a member of the family that owns the New York Times, wrote about international issues for the paper beginning in 1939, and had a front seat to the war years and the post-war reconstruction of Europe. In 1954, he started a column, Foreign Affairs, which ran until 1978, and lived most of his life in Paris, where he died at the age of 80. His column was an influential one, covering diplomacy, military and economic issues, and many of the iconic leaders of the 20th century granted him access, which would sometimes write about from a first person point of view.
A decade after his most famous position, that of press secretary to President John F. Kennedy and briefly for President Lyndon Johnson, half-French, half-American Pierre Salinger (1925-2004) became a roving editor for the French weekly L’Express. He was the Paris bureau chief for ABC News from 1979 to 1983, when he returned to the US for another two decades before retiring to Le Thor, France where he died in 2004. He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Paris correspondent The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, who from 1995 until 2000 chronicled the building of the Stade de France, the Maurice Papon trial, and in the vein of Janet Flanner before him, some of the cultural conflicts and protocols of Paris, such as his digression into the century-spanning rivalry between the Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots cafes. His book expanding on his Paris Journal pieces, Paris to the Moon, was published in 2000.
|As the media landscape continues to shift, more and more newspapers and magazines have been shutting down their major foreign bureaus. With the exception of the New York Times, combining with its International Herald Tribune offices in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine and the Wall Street Journal, the Paris correspondent of yore is both nearing extinction and taking on new forms in our digital age.
© The New Yorker