Testing our new media landscape

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Testing our new media landscape

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As you walk down about 300 meters from the Arc de Triomphe along the Champs-Elysees, you’ll find Avenue George V on the right. The street is the home of the luxurious Hotel George-V. Until a few years ago, the hotel was just one of many five-star hotels in Paris. But when Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a billionaire and member of the Saudi royal family, acquired the hotel in 2008, it was upgraded to a different level. Prince Al Waleed had Four Seasons Hotels, an ultra-luxury hotel management company, take over the operation and changed the name of the hotel to Four Seasons Hotel George-V. Today, it is the most expensive hotel in Paris. One night in a standard room, the least expensive option, costs 895 euros, or 1.36 million won, which is equivalent to a month’s rent for a decent studio in the French capital.

Last week, I wanted to meet someone in Paris, and he arranged a meeting at the bar in the Four Seasons hotel. Since I am the one who proposed the meeting in the first place, I couldn’t refuse, despite my hesitation. After checking the credit card in my wallet, I entered the hotel. My appearance and the grandeur of the hotel felt inharmonious at first, but the hospitality of the staff made me feel comfortable. After an hour-long interview, the conversation naturally spilled over to personal matters. The interviewee had been in journalism for 40 years, and he said he had turned down an offer to head France-Soir earlier this year. “My life is too short to waste on a sinking ship,” he said.

France-Soir once had the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in France. In its heyday, it had a circulation of 1.5 million copies a day, the largest in continental Europe. These days, however, circulation has dropped to 90,000. After filing for court receivership, it was acquired by Russian tycoon Alexander Pugachyov, who recently offered to sell the newspaper for 1 euro on the condition that the new owner would take over all debts associated with the company. In order to minimize its growing deficit of 1 million euro per month, France-Soir would eliminate its paper publication and exist only online. The newspaper, with a legacy of 67 years, is on the verge of closing.

The disgrace of France-Soir is not a foreign story. It is a global trend. The young generation has become so accustomed to the Internet and smartphones that they no longer read traditional newspapers.

On Thursday in Korea, four new TV networks debuted. While each broadcasting company has its own goals, they are all seeking ways to survive the crisis newspapers now face. They are desperate to have a breakthrough in order to survive the changed media environment.

The senior journalist I met at the hotel insisted he would pick up the bill, saying it was a courtesy to treat a fellow journalist who had flown in from far away. I was relieved in a way, but at the same time, it felt like a way of expressing sympathy for someone who still believes in the future of newspapers.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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