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Intellectual collective

· Interview with Dominique Quinio, the first woman to head a daily newspaper in France ·

"A newspaper like ours is a collective. Indeed, it is an ‘intellectual collective’ the wonderful expression that I inherited from Alain Remond, author of the billet on the last page of "La Croix", and a view that I agree with entirely. We are not a group of individuals who are very intellectually gifted, but, rather, it is together that we are building something". Dominique Quinio is self-assured, the first woman director of the French Catholic daily "La Croix", a post she has held for eight years now.

Would you describe "your" newspaper?

What our readers look at is the newspaper as a whole and their own history with "La Croix" goes far beyond the last eight years; we are speaking about old relations of fidelity, going back to 1975. As I have built my career above all with "La Croix", and the richness of this relationship of fidelity and discovery is that, like any other relationship, it evolves over the years and through the functions that you exercise, when you are at the beginning of your career, when you are one element among others, and then later, when you are taking on responsibility. I know that "La Croix" existed long before me and I know that it will exist long after me. Of course, when you are in charge of a newspaper and you have to write many of its editorials, from the outside you are inevitably identified with it, perhaps a little more than the other journalists. But I'm just "one" in a chain. My job is just to pass the baton and move this over one hundred years "old lady" ("La Croix" has existed for a hundred and thirty years), to seize new opportunities, including technical ones (internet) as well as the evolution of society and of the Church. It means being ferrymen from one generation to another.

Reading "La Croix" one senses a great deal of attention given to the quality of relationships between the readers and the newspaper.

Yes, and this is a wonderful thing. The presence of the Courrier des Lecteurs (Letters to the Editor) is crucial for the richness of the newspaper and to understand what we must do: understanding the evolution of thought is indispensable. I manage personally, along with a team, the Courrier des Lecteurs because I consider it a fundamental element, on the one hand to determine the satisfaction or the lack of understanding about the things we have done, and on the other to see what are the issues that preoccupy the readers. But the readers are not always right: clearly it is necessary also to make a conscious choice between what is important and what is not. We must not forcibly bend to some sort of consensus of the readership, but it is important to listen to its voice because in the Catholic Church there are not many spaces for public debate where one is able to nurture a type of public opinion. I am extremely proud that here, with us, this area of expression exists

What kind of newspaper are you?

"La Croix" is a newspaper of ideas, not a partisan newspaper. We can say what we believe, or express an opinion - on a social change, for instance - and still respect the people who do not feel the same way. We try to provide the elements to understand a situation, to allow people who may find themselves on the margins of society or of the Church, to talk, and to remain calm in the storms where the differences are sometimes very large. We try to be a leaven of peace and not a place of exacerbation of conflicts. We want to be bridges and mediators between the Church and society, among Christians themselves, between Christians and other believers and those who do not believe. Ours is a space for dialogue that presupposes that you are secure in your identity: we are a Catholic newspaper that belongs to a religious congregation; we therefore, refer to the values of the Gospel, which does not in any way stop us being attentive to what is being experienced elsewhere. We know what our paper says and writes is taken up by its readers and, through the website, a much wider audience that is by "the suburbs", as Pope Francis would say. There is a great deal of interest in us, even among the surrounding media world that, realizing we are a quality newspaper, is interested in finding out what stance a newspaper like "La Croix" takes on certain topics. We are very different from other newspapers.

How are you different?

In the hierarchy of current affairs. Our raison d'etre is current events and it is these that guide us. But in this abundant actuality that continually "bounces back" upon us, we do of course make a selection: between what is trivial and what is important, between that which has serious consequences for the people of our time and what instead is secondary. There are issues that we explore further, for example, questions concerning ethics, society, family or social solidarity. What we try to do - and what is not so common among our colleagues - is to give our readers, in the current situation that is often very hard and sad, reasons for hope. That is to say, to search in current events for flashes of light, luminous people, people who act and instill in readers the desire to commit oneself.

What interests you, then, is not only the event but also the human aspect of the event?

Absolutely! Cardinal Etchegarray invited journalists to take a look wherever there is a human being. And Noël Copain said that we treat issues where there is at stake the destiny of man. We do not care about the surface of things, but rather about everything that has happy or less happy consequences on the lives of the people of our time.

You have written:“We must look at the events from another angle”: is it not this that is the distinctive feature of "La Croix"?

The important thing is to understand the motivations of people. Well, the issues related to marriage, to the end of life, are eminently political issues that should be at the centre of the reflections of politicians.

You are the first woman to be in charge of a newspaper in France. What is it like being a woman in the midst of about ninety journalists, the vast majority of whom are men?

My first job as a journalist was what today is called the editorial secretary. This means that I was at the end of all the work and the adjustment of the work of others; between the rereading, the choice of titles, pagination, so I was at the service of others' work. I loved doing this: I love to bring out ideas, I want people to complete their own ideas, I consider myself a midwife for the work of others. Is it feminine as a way of proceeding? Undoubtedly yes!

Your challenges?

A certain firmness in the openness to continue to ensure that "La Croix" is a place of peace aimed at encouraging dialogue between people. I myself am almost at the end of my professional career and I hope to have many, many heirs.

After a degree in literature and a diploma from the Centre for training journalists in Paris, Dominique Quinio began her career as a journalist in "The Charente Libre" in 1974. The following year she joins "La Croix", where she will be, in order, editorial secretary, editor, head of the "société", chief editor, deputy director in 2000 and, since 2006, director. Married and mother of four children, Quinio was auditor of the Institut des Hautes Études de Défense Nationale (IHEDN), a member of the editorial board of the journal "Études" and of the High Council of population and the family. She is also a member of the Committee of Social publications.

by Catherine Aubin

PRINTED EDITION

 

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