Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Artisans from L'Orient-Le Jour, the only French-language Lebanese daily, reveal the secrets of its longevity, but also the challenges of surviving in a country hit by a spiral of political, economic and security crises.

100 years later, The Orient is still standing

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Antoine Henoud, who has just celebrated his 100th birthday, just like L'Orient-Le Jour, is one of the most loyal readers of this French-speaking Lebanese newspaper.

  • Rania Massoud (View profile)Rania Massoud

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BEIRUT, Lebanon – Only French-speaking daily newspaper in a Lebanon in full collapse economic and where the French language is increasingly falling apart, L’Orient-LeJour is blowing out its 100 candles this year.

From the French mandate (1923-1946) until the explosion of the port of Beirut in 2020, including the civil war (1975-1990 ) and the Arab Spring, the daily newspaper witnesses a large part of the history of Lebanon, but also of the Middle East.

It’s extraordinary!, exclaims Anthony Samrani, co-editor-in-chief of the journal. We ourselves have difficulty assimilating it: a newspaper in French in the Arab world which is 100 years old, it's exceptional!

An achievement which was not, however, without its challenges, he tempers.

The fact of having been there for all these years, of having covered all these events, it gives meaning to our mission, he explains. We are one of the last Lebanese institutions still standing, reinventing ourselves and questioning ourselves to continue moving forward, which is both exciting and terrifying, stimulating and exhausting.

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Columns illustrating archives of the Lebanese daily L'Orient-Le Jour.

Journalist Rania Massoud worked for more than 10 years in the editorial staff of L'Orient-Le Jour in Beirut, then as a correspondent in Montreal, before joining the digital team of Radio-Canada in 2018.

Declaring itself independent of political parties, < em>L'Orient-Le Jour claims on its website to survive thanks to the sale of newspapers, online subscriptions and advertising.

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By staying away from political money in a country undermined by divisions and corruption, the newspaper wants to remain an almost unique space of freedom not only in Lebanon, but in the entire region.

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We are far from all the hatred, all the fanaticism and all the identity projects. This does not prevent us from having very clear political positions. We are a committed newspaper, but not an activist newspaper.

A quote from Anthony Samrani, co-editor-in-chief of L’Orient-Le JourOpen in full screen mode

The entrance to the premises of the Orient-Le Jour, Lebanon.

To illustrate the newspaper's policy, the co-editor in chief explains that L'Orient-Le Jour was one of the first dailies in the Arab world to denounce Hamas' bloody attack on Israel on October 7, but was also one of the first French-speaking media outlets to describe the Israeli response as unjustifiable carnage.

It's become very difficult to be nuanced in our time, and it's even more difficult to be nuanced when you live in the Middle East, says Anthony Samrani.

Issa Goraieb, columnist and former editor-in-chief of the newspaper, knows something about the difficulty of remaining nuanced in this tormented region of the world.

Having taken his first steps as a journalist at L'Orient-Le Jour59 years ago, in May 1965, he saw Lebanon in all its forms: from the glory of the 1960s to the descent into hell from the civil war… and the multiple crises that followed. #x27;are followed.

I have the impression of having had three existences in this newspaper: first there is the enthusiasm of youth in a land of plenty. It was truly Lebanon's golden age in 1965. Then there was the war, where everything turned upside down. […] And, finally, the post-war period, that of disillusionment.

A quote from Issa Goraieb, columnist and former editor-in-chief of L'Orient-Le Jour

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Issa Goraieb, columnist and former editor-in-chief of L'Orient-Le Jour, sitting in his office.

We now live in a failed state where the warlords have virtually destroyed everything there was to rebuild, he laments. Is it for this Lebanon that hundreds of thousands of Lebanese lost their lives? No.

He consoles himself by thinking of the immense pride of seeing the newspaper celebrate its 100th anniversary. Because, in his eyes, L'Orient-Le Jourstill represents the Lebanon to which we aspire: a free and pluralistic Lebanon, a model for the region. p>

Since its creation, the daily has also made several small ones, the latest of which is L'Orient-Today, its English counterpart.

But the newspaper remains anchored in its French-speaking tradition. It’s our DNA, assures Anthony Samrani.

L’Orient-Le Jourhas, moreover, recently received two prestigious French-speaking prizes: the Grande Médaille de la francophonie, awarded in 2022 by the Académie française, as well as the Albert Londres Prize, awarded in 2021 to journalist Caroline Hayek for her series of reports on devastation of the Beirut port explosion.

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Journalist Caroline Hayek.

These awards have given new momentum to the editorial staff […] when we felt like we were at the bottom of a hole and several of us were thinking of leaving the country due to the economic crisis, underlines journalist Caroline Hayek.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">We felt that our work was not completely in vain, she adds.

There are times when we have doubts. We ask ourselves why stay in Lebanon, why write in French. We sometimes have the impression of working in a vacuum, but we are aware that we are creating an essential and important link with the diaspora.

A quote from Caroline Hayek, journalist and winner of the Albert Londres Prize

Because if L'Orient-Le Jour has a secret to longevity, it is this link that he maintains with Lebanese expatriates.

It is in particular thanks to the support of the diaspora that the French-speaking Lebanese media has been able to cross one of the worst economic crises in the country's history, where the local currency has lost more than 90% of its initial value since 2019.

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In the room editorial staff of L’Orient-Le Jour.

The diaspora is the heart of our readership, assures Émilie Sueur, responsible for digital development at L'Orient-Le Day. Today, 75% of our readers and 50% of our subscribers are located abroad.

This explains why the newspaper was one of the first in Lebanon and perhaps in the region to have undertaken a massive digital transformation […] to better serve this diaspora, she adds .

There is no official data on Lebanese living abroad. In Canada, the Lebanese community represents approximately 400,000 people, according to Global Affairs Canada.

The Orient-The Day has a vocation to be a link between Lebanon and all these Lebanese from the first, second, third and fourth generation of immigration.

A quote from Émilie Sueur, responsible for digital development at L'Orient-Le Day

Antoine Henoud, who just celebrated his 100th birthday this year, just like L'Orient-Le Jour, remains firmly attached to the paper version of the newspaper.

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Antoine Henoud, one of the most loyal readers of L'Orient-Le Jour.

This former lawyer, resident of Beirut, is one of the daily's most loyal readers. He doesn't miss a single issue.

I read it every morning, to the point where, even on Sundays [the only day of rest for the paper newspaper] , I feel like I'm going to pick it up and read it with my coffee in the morning, like it's a normal day, he says.

And even if his daughter, Carla, and his grandson, Gilles Khoury, work there as journalists, he says he reads it with detachment.

C' is a newspaper that has made a lot of effort over the years, notes Mr. Henoud. He managed to maintain a certain balance […] and you feel well informed while reading it. We don't feel like we're wasting our time, in any case.

Coming from the mouth of a centenarian, it's not nothing.

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