Le Huff Po est arrivé

DSK's wife launches the French outpost of Arianna Huffington's online operation.

Six months after the launch of Huffington Post UK, the British version of her news aggregation and commentary website, Arianna Huffington has announced the extension of her online empire to France. Le Huffington Post, a joint venture with the group that owns the daily newspaper Le Monde, went live yesterday, under the editorial direction of Anne Sinclair, the wife of the disgraced former director of the IMF and erstwhile candidate for the French presidency Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

In an inaugural post explaining "who we are", Sinclair, the star current affairs presenter and interviewer on the TF1 television channel in the 1980s and 1990s, promises that Le Huff Po will be a site for "debate", mixing news and comment just as its English and American cousins already do.

Contributors on the site's first day of activity included Rachida Dati, a former minister of justice and adviser to Nicolas Sarkozy, from the left Julien Dray, one of the co-founders of the anti-racist campaigning organisation SOS Racisme and a former spokesman for Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, and the pollster François Miquet-Marty.

That Sinclair would be making her first foray into the French media since her husband's arrest in New York in May last year has for a while been one of the worst kept secrets in Paris. Incidentally, the story was first broken in October on Rue 89, a news site now owned by the leftish weekly Le Nouvel Observateur with which, one suspects, Le Huff Po will be in direct competition. La guerre commence!

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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Radio as shelter: Grenfell Tower was too frightening to look at

No song seemed to fit the mood on Hayes FM.

“Amidst all this horror, I hope to bring you some light relief. Here’s James Taylor.” Two days after the Grenfell Tower fire, a popular community station a little west of the incident was uncertain what note to strike.

The repeated ads for alarms detecting carbon-monoxide leaks (“this silent killer”) and tips on how to prevent house fires (“Don’t overwhelm your sockets and cause a spark”) sounded perhaps a little overassertive, but then the one for a day-long course focusing on resisting gender stereotyping (“Change the narrative”) felt somewhat out of place. And no song seemed to fit. James Taylor’s “Shower the People” turned out OK, but the Cranberries’ “The Icicle Melts” was unceremoniously faded out mid-flow.

This does often happen on Hayes FM, though. There are times when the playlist is patently restless, embodying that hopeless sensation when you can’t settle and are going through tracks like an unplugged bath – Kate Bush too cringey, T-Rex too camp – everything reminding you of some terrible holiday a couple of years ago. Instead, more ads. Watch your salt intake. Giving up smoking might be a good idea. Further fire safety. (“Attach too many appliances and it could cause an overload and that could cause a fire. Fire kills.”)

Then a weather report during which nobody could quite bring themselves to state the obvious: that the sky was glorious. A bell of blue glass. The morning of the fire – the building still ablaze – I had found three 15-year-old boys, pupils at a Latimer Road school that stayed closed that day because of the chaos, sitting in their uniforms on a bench on the mooring where I live, along the towpath from the tower.

They were listening to the perpetual soft jangle of talk radio as it reported on the situation. “Why the radio?” I asked them, the sight of young people not focused on visuals clearly unusual. “It’s too frightening to look at!” they reasoned.

Radio as shelter. As they listened, one of them turned over in his hand a fragment of the tower’s cladding that he must have picked up in the street on the way over – a sticky-charcoaled hack of sponge, which clung like an insect to his fingers whenever he tried to drop it. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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