Journalism in France

Dear All,

I'm Kate, I'm 26 and from UK, I've been in France for about 18 months. I am looking for some advice and am hoping someone might be able to help me or to point me in the direction of some useful websites...

In a nutshell, I am hoping to become a journalist and I am currently thinking of staying in France long term. I have a masters degree but not in journalism, I actually have no formal journalism training, though I have some experience including working here as a 'pigiste' for a local paper...My French is good but not yet good enough to write serious stuff for a serious French publication.

Does anybody have an opinion on whether it is better to train in France or in England?If I did a course in the UK, would it be recognised here and if not could I do an equivalence? How could I find out about this?

After doing a course, what are the chances, realistically, of getting work with either a French publication or an English language one..either writing for an English language paper in France or being a correspondent for a UK news agency?

Basically.... has anyone got any advice for an English person who wants to be a journalist and live in France??!!

Any help and advice would be very greatly appreciated :)

Enjoy the weekend !


I know - those French tourist websites drive me to distraction. I like the phrase for this resistance!

Some people just don't like or want feedback. Ridiculous, really.

Ooh! Good luck! And I'm so glad it's not just me!! I thought I was losing my English abilities. Well, I didn't really. I just thought she was very rude. There's no way on earth an English kind-of semi-literate French speaker would correct a French writer.

Or maybe they would... people never fail to surprise me!

At my daughters state lycee, there are teachers who don't have a CAPES. One of them is her English teacher.

There is a strike tomorrow and one of the issues the teachers are protesting about is the increasing use of 'unqualified' teachers....

Ha ha, I can relate to both points, I avoid French clients like the plague after a number of similar situations and do nearly all my translation work for people outside France. As for teaching in a collège, wherever it's situated, NO WAY! Been there and got out asap. Will soon be out of linguistics, as a source of income that is otherwise still thoroughly in it, and running a shop - need to make more dosh for the family!

Yes - unfortunately in rural areas, you might have one or two private schools, and then there are pay and conditions issues :/ I'd rather poke my eyes out than teach at the local privé college! That's when the CAPES becomes important...

And believe me, I think some of the 'language' schools in Paris seem to take anyone who's got a whiff of an anglophone-country passport, regardless of their level of English. Being a writer means riding a very different beast than teaching.

Mind you, I have a lovely story to share about a freebie translation I did for a French friend (no longer) whose web designer asked if I'd used Google Translate to do the translation into English 'because there are still French words in it'. The word in it she objected to was 'adopt'. This from a web designer whose own website opens with 'Welcome IN my website'. Needless to say, friend and I fell out when I pointed this out. Strangely, she decided to go with the French web designer's Allo Allo English instead of mine. Oh well. Being a linguist isn't a job for the precious, whether it's writing, teaching or translating.

yes, a large number of prof in cneap schools start off as a remplaçant (OH's situation 10 years ago) with at least a degree or professional qualification in the subject and are then titularisé after a year or so, OH's remplaçante when she was off having our kids has just been titularisée although she's done no teacher training at all. BTW, neither are in languages but having taught in a few schools it's the same there too. Everyone reads the regulations as they wish and according to the market, if the current trend continues with France becoming a bit like the UK for languages teachers they'll be taking any anglophones regardless of qualifications before long! (that is rather tongue in cheek for all those who think they just need to be a native speaker to teach english and even more so to teach it in schools!) It also takes a lot of luck and or a lot of time to break into the "market" before you can get strings pulled ;-)

One other thing that needs to be pointed out is that a degree is still pretty much a dgree in the UK with small numbers staying on. In France a degree doesn't have the same clout as so many people stay on to bac +5, ie you'd be looking at 5 years min higher education journalism with hopeless prospects here in France at the end of it. I don't want to seem negative, just telling it as it is ;-)

I wasn't thinking about privé to be honest - but it's a fair point. Nobody can be appointed as an English teacher without CAPES in state schools in the three areas near to me - though not that I'd want to. It's funny - in the LA I worked in in the North West, there were five French French teachers across 30 secondary schools. I wonder if rural France has the same issue? The situation is marginally better in private schools in England in the North West - and that's not to say an English person can't teach French (after all, I do! As well as Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and German!) but that we just don't have those subtleties. The same for writing. And, as you quite rightly point out, it's not what you know, but who you know.

In the UK I worked in careers. Journalism was one of the most difficult areas to get into. I friends son's girlfriend has just finished a degree in journalism. A bright girl. No job yet. I've been in contact with Radio Nantes about the literary festival I'm organizing. Spoken to a girl there who is working for nothing for them just to get experience. Will she get a job at the end? Your guess is as good as mine. And if you are not fluent in French, impossible I would have thought. Sorry to be so blunt, but one point we had to take as careers advisers with people was to be realistic.

Emma, just to clarify the situation, rectorats are obliged to accept a PGCE as the european equivilent to a capes BUT I fully acknowledge that you can't normally be titulaire without having passed the CAPES however, I've been offered titulaire jobs in the privé (cneap) and replacement positions in state schools, I haven't taken them because I've had enough of teaching! But things are changing and after 5 years as a replacement (and they lack english teachers believe me, a friend is head mistress of a local lycée and has pleaded with me to take a job, my PGCE MFL giving me direct access to the post, no problems with the rectorat, neither for Midi-Pyrénées or Auvergne and that's from the horses mouth) you can be titularisé. It's like everything in France, you need to se faire pistonner like everyone else! As for the UK I taught in a department where ther were 2 english french teachers and 3 french french teachers, if you see what I mean!) Whatever the situation, it isn't the same as the uk and will be difficult as I agree that they'll employ a french person over and above an English one - that's france (although I'm English teaching French as a foreign language to chinese students in a French IUT...!)

I do some work but it's all for anglophone readers - and you have to be great at writing AmE as well as BrE. I write for DIY/Interior/Craft mags in the US and educational fields as well as occasionally for craft/DIY/Interior in the UK - I used to work for the MEN.

You might find some work for English publications based in France, but the pay is not good.

Mentioning no names, but I had a 'trial' (i.e. I spent four days!) with an English monthly over here who wanted me to do all my own research, be fluent in both English and French and write to a non-existent house style that they couldn't explain, but they knew existed. I didn't get paid and even if I had been paid, they were offering a salary for a full time position, 6 days a week, of 800€ a month. That's for a Masters in writing, fluency in French - and they wanted SEO experience to boot. Luckily, being 20 years in the world of writing kind of gives you that, but I was unprepared for their appalling attitude. They didn't even have the courtesy to tell me I got it or didn't get it, or even give me thanks, even though I did almost a week's worth of work for them for nothing!

I would ask though if you decide to go down the teaching route, please get a teaching qualification of some kind. Just because you use language and are qualified with language doesn't mean you are with teaching. In fact, the teaching side is more important to me than the language side! Depending on where you are, there are vast tracts of France where you can't command a respectable salary unless you live near a city. The department I work in has a bigger area than Lancashire and fewer people than Coventry... Skype lessons are the way forward! It took 18 months before business started to come in, though.

If you plan on teaching English in a French school, a PGCE is pointless - sorry, Andrew! University of Poitiers/Limoges/Bordeaux won't accept it above the CAPES. You'd need to take the CAPES. You could find work in schools as an assistant - but you're virtually a teacher without the pay or the position. As it is right now, they'd prefer a French speaker who teaches French children to say 'bruzzere' and 'muzzere' and even writes that this is how it is said. It's similar in England - most MFL teachers in the UK are English - you might find 1 in 5 who are native, but then they are co-opted to teach Spanish or German as well.

You could find lots of work writing copy for online copy businesses - they're finally coming back round to the fact that yes they can find a cheaper article from India, but realise that it's a different type of English than BrE or AmE. I don't do it full time, but it's certainly filled the gaps between paychecks! That's quite interesting and varied business and the more experience you have, the better. You could be writing about the Brazilian parliament one day and about shoes on the catwalk the next. It's not well-paid at first, but you can live anywhere and the more you do, the more you command.

Pessimistic and cynical, I know, but then the world also changes very quickly (although France doesn't)! And virtual journalism is on the up-and-up, especially if you are a niche specialist. What you need there, though, is niche first and then journalism experience. If it's a quirky niche, with a British background and living in France, the American readers will love you. It must be said, these niches are creative, by and large. David Lebowitz is a good example (he's American though).

And another thing, if you want to write and you haven't already, get a blog. There are lots of great blogs out there that are well-run and well-presented. If you blog in French, in a niche, you'll get the attention of French magazines quite quickly, since proportionally, France isn't all that 'bloggy' yet. If you blog in English, you can very quickly work your way up to magazine features, guest blogging, and then books! Again, niche is more important than journalism - though being good at writing is an obvious bonus, as is being good at photography. Regular, interesting, lively and personal content on a theme is usually a quick recipe for success; it acts as a virtual portfolio and I'd guess 50% of my new work comes via my blogs/website.

Epic response! Hope it's of some help. Feel free to contact me if you want any more info.

Hi, I'm not a journalist but a translator and teach French at uni here in France, i have a maîtrise français langue étrangère but couldn't see myself, even after a journalism bac +5 being employed here over and above a french person, hard fact and I think Finn's less than 1% is spot on, I'd go for less than 0.5%! Unless you've grown up here and been through the school system you'll never have the same feel as a 100% french journalist. from what I read the market is extremely tough for the thousands of bac+5 french journalists who struggle from one stage to another in hope of landing a job. I think you'd have far more chance as an anglophone journalist, speak to Catharine on that, I also agree that you'd probably do far better teaching English here than being a journalist. I no longer teach it, but that's my choice, but once you break into the market, which takes time, you can earn decent money here and if you've got a pgce, you can get a steady teaching job in a school if that's what you want. Bonne chance ;-)

ps - just seen your Pm - very happy to chat on the phone next week if that helps? I might even be more positive!!

Without being depressing....

I gave up and became an English teacher instead. More demand, better pay and far less competition. The last few years have seen loads of English lang publications go to the wall, those that have hung on in there are (mainly) using free or very cheap content. And it shows.

Having said that, if you can write, you can write and if you can get commissioned, good for you. For me, with three kids, journalism stopped being a viable full time income esp. with exchange rates factored in.

If you can write in French and get work for French publications, them that is a whole different scenario. Rates are better and more regulated. You can't invoice without a siret number so that keeps the "I'll write for a byline and a Mars bar in the hope of promoting my gite complex" brigade out.

I currently do a bit of copy writing, a bit of (ghost) blog posting, some translation and proofreading - all in English but sometimes for French magazines as well as corporate and private clients. But it is teaching that pays the bills.

Hope this helps!