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28.01.2019

Reporterre: A French online daily highlighting the plight of our environment

by Hervé Kempf

Reporterre came into existence in 2007, as we entered a historic and life-altering environmental crisis. The environmental issue is the essential one dominating this early 21st century.

Reporterre Screenshot from Reporterre website.

This raises an important political question: how will humanity make the economic choices that allow it to continue to live in peace and prosperity, and at the same time reduce its negative impact on the environment? This is the core question, which no major media really talks about.

Many media outlets continue reporting on economic news as if economic growth can continue without any major environmental impacts, or as if the environmental issues were secondary. Such assumptions are, of course, misguided, as the environmental issue is absolutely central to political and economic happenings and decisions.

As with every important story, there must be media coverage. We need to tell what's happening to the planet as a result of political and economic decisions. One must ask the simple question: What is the planet’s state of health? Is it getting better, or is it getting worse?

Moreover, media outlets ought to cover the struggles of men and women who want to prevent further environmental degradation.

It is the responsibility of the media to investigate and disseminate possible alternatives that allow people to live prosperously without furthering environmental degradation. This is why Reporterre, a daily newspaper, exists: there's so much information that you have to relay every day on how human civilisation and the planet can co-exist peacefully without one thriving at the expense of the other. 

From a personal side-project to reputable French online news site

In 2007, Reporterre was launched as an online newspaper to provide information on the links between the environmental crisis, social injustice and threats to basic human freedoms. It accompanied the publication of a book I wrote, entitled How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth.

Cover of the book How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth, by Hervé Kempf.

This book was a great success in France and abroad, with editions published in about 10 languages, including English, Italian, Hungarian, and Turkish.

The online newspaper itself was very modest at first. Slowly but surely, it started growing and began to publish surveys and exclusive interviews.

At the beginnings of Reporterre, it was a personal site, with no outside input, because at the time, I was working in the environment section of the well-known French daily Le Monde. However, Le Monde lost its editorial independence when a billionaire in the telecoms sector, and two multi-millionaires in the luxury and banking sectors, bought it in 2010.

Gradually, the atmosphere changed in this once-glorious newspaper. In 2012, the newspaper's management censored me regarding working on the story of a very significant environmental struggle over an airport project in western France, Notre-Dame-de-Landes. The government strongly supported this project - a government close to the owners of the newspaper.

I had been following and reporting on this struggle for years. However, at a decisive moment, when thousands of police officers were trying to evacuate opponents at the airport, the management prevented me from covering this story.

It was an act of censorship.

An arm-wrestling match followed, and I left Le Monde in the summer of 2013.

After leaving my post at Le Monde, I then invested my time into the small Reporterre website. I continued working on it without capital and with no investment other than my unemployment benefits. Little by little, other journalists joined the Reporterre team and we started to produce good and insightful news on environmental topics. Our sprawling content allowed us to gradually build a large core readership, which has reached more than 23,000 visitors per day in 2019.

Readers started sending donations our way, and this enabled us to hire another journalist. With more hands on deck, the information that we provided continued improving quantitatively and qualitatively, and thus we kept on receiving even more donations. In short, a virtuous circle started, which led to a strong upward development. Currently, donations make up about 75% of our monthly budget of 40,000 euros. The remaining funds come from private foundations (20% of our total budget), and 5% from the teams own contributions.

There are five reasons why Reporterre has become sustainable.

First, we have a clear editorial line at Reporterre: as mentioned above, we consider that the rapid degradation of the planet's environment is the main political problem of the 21st century. I say "the" political problem because no other social issue rivals it. If human society does not find a way to negotiate socio-economic progress with environmental preservation, it can very likely lead to disorder, war, famine, and chaos.

Our main interest and reference point is reporting on environmental degradation and how humanity can better negotiate the needs for socio-economic prosperity with the needs of our fascinating and admirable environment.

Second, we focus solely on publishing exclusive content, which is the essence of journalism. For example, in 2014, we revealed that the death of a young man during a demonstration in Sivens against a dam was due to a grenade fired by a gendarme. In 2015, we put out the story that Renault, like Volkswagen, was cheating on diesel engines emission tests and thus polluting the environment. In 2016, we ran an investigative piece into false reports issued by the nuclear company Areva.

Many other exclusive stories have been published since.

Third, we monitor field struggles very closely, remaining closer to the common people instead of smooching to the people at the top. We approach farmers, activists, people in their residential neighbourhoods, and we rarely visit ministries and company offices. We made great progress in 2018 because, unlike the oligarchic media, we invested a lot of time and energy into covering the events in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, when Mr. Macron's government launched thousands of police officers to remove environmental activists on the ground.

Fourth, we are also very transparent about our finances, and always tell people what we do, who we are, and how we work. We follow every euro spent by our organisation, making sure that everything is efficiently spent on bringing our readers quality information.

Last but not least, we are an independent news organisation. What does it mean to be independent? We do not cave in to powerful interests and we are not bullied into publishing false information.

We leave it to the reader to judge the quality and veracity of our stories.

Reporterre is, at the end of the day, a small news organisation dedicated to covering the degradation of our environment in an effort to increase the chances of humanity co-existing peacefully with Mother Earth. Our resources are quite limited in comparison to the large media organisations owned by powerful oligarchs. However, we have what money cannot buy: conviction, enthusiasm, and independence.


Hervé Kempf is Editor of Reporterre (www.reporterre.net). Kempf was one of the speakers at the ECPMF conference Newsocracy in Prague, 14. December 2018.



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