A Legacy in French Journalism: a Tribute to the Late Érik Izraelewicz

Érik Izraelewicz.Photo: Flickr.com/leafar

Érik Izraelewicz.
Photo: Flickr.com/leafar

Érik Izraelewicz, editorial director of Le Monde and respected journalist and economist, died Tuesday in Paris of a heart attack. He was 58.

Mr. Izraelewicz had been appointed to his post in February of 2011 by the new owners of Le Monde, a trio of investors who acquired the paper from its employees in 2010. His death, after less than two years at the helm, raises fresh questions about the future direction of the French newspaper.

Mr. Izraelewicz had been setting a new course for Le Monde, seeking to intensify coverage of pressing economic matters, with the ongoing Euro crisis a main target of interest. His successor has not yet been named.

Born in Strasbourg in 1954 to Polish-Jewish parents, he spent part of his childhood in the town of Haguenau on the German border, where his father worked as a physician. In 1976 he took his degree from Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris(HEC), one of the most prestigious schools of business in Europe. He spent the next two years at the Centre de formation des journalistes (CFJ), before earning a doctorate in international economics in 1979.

Mr. Izraelewicz began his career as a journalist covering economics at the weekly L’Usine nouvelle, before moving to the bi-monthly L’Expansion. He was a co-founder of the financial daily La Tribune de l’économie in 1985, before joining the economics desk at Le Monde a year later. In this first stint at Le Monde, Mr. Izraelewicz covered French finances, banks, and insurance. He was appointed the desk head in 1989.

From 1993 to 1994, Mr. Izraelewicz was the paper’s New York correspondent. He became Le Monde’s editor-in-chief in 1996, before leaving in 2000 to take up the position of managing editor at the financial daily Les Echos. He left in 2008, only a year after becoming director, due to his opposition to the paper’s takeover by Bernard Arnault’s LVMH group.

He then rejoined his 1985 start-up, now simply called Le Tribune, as director, but left shortly thereafter in July of 2010. Mr. Izraelewicz applied for the position of director at Le Monde in January of 2011, and was appointed on February 7. His appointment was confirmed three days later with a 74% vote of confidence from journalists of the paper.

Mr. Israelewicz was also the author of several books, including two volumes on China’s growing international economic influence.

Although his tenure as director of Le Monde was short-lived, he left a lasting impression there and on the French world of journalism at large. In a Thursday obituary, Le Monde praised a man “eager for reforms that shape the world as it is, for better or for worse.” A hardworking and intellectual individual who guarded his personal life closely, the paper remembered him for his long hours and dedication.

His time at the New York desk had a lasting effect on Mr. Izraelewicz, both personally and professionally. “From the Anglo-Saxon world, which he knew well, he adopted his professional codes,” said Le Monde’s journalists in a statement following his death, “but also a certain coolness and a great sense of humor.”

Mr. Izraelewicz was critical of the United States as hosts of the 1996 Olympic Games, writing in a front-page article in Le Monde that the host of issues in Atlanta were indicative of negative aspects of American society. He wrote that flaws that plagued the Games reflected “(a) megalomaniacal America. An America enslaved by technology. An America ruled by money.” The international press at large was also critical of the event, which was not the smoothest in recent memory.

Despite his close ties with prominent members of the Socialist Party, Mr. Izraelewicz was not known as a leftist ideologue. His death brought a glowing tribute from President François Hollande, who lamented the loss of a “renowned economist, a distinguished professional and a man as demanding as generous.”

“France has lost a journalist of great talent,” Mr. Hollande said, professing a “profound sadness” over his death.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault echoed these sentiments in a Wednesday statement, recalling Mr. Izraelewicz’s legacy of “extreme intellectual rigor, of his sparkling intellect, in the service of his team and his readers.

Mr. Izraelewicz’s untimely death is indeed a blow to Le Monde, as the paper finds itself in a period of transition, and to the international journalistic community.

Comments

  1. Sarantis Symeonoglou says:

    Thanks for this. I wonder if he is related to Jacques Israelievtch, concert master of the Toronto symphony.

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