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Facing death at 95

The only Franco-Albertan newspaper since 1928
may soon print its last copy
Editor’s notebook
By Isaac Lamoureux

WE HAVE MADE THE financial decision to terminate your contract early” are not the words I expected to hear when I picked up the phone two weeks ago. Yet, that is what the board president of the newspaper Le  Franco was calling to tell me.

Alberta’s only francophone newspaper started life as La Survivance in 1928; it became Le Franco in 1967. The paper generally runs 20-30 pages, with stories running half a page to two pages. Until now, the stories were written mostly by staffers, with the odd freelance or syndicate piece rounding out the content.

But, At the start of this year, the biweekly newspaper slashed its staff by two thirds, from three journalists to just one.

So, Le Franco will be carrying more stories from services such as the Canada-wide syndicate Francopresse, and a lot less original local content.

“By the end of February, the Board of Directors should be able to issue a statement on the state of the situation and the next steps for the newspaper,” Virginie Dallaire, the President of Le Franco’s Board of Directors said.

With Postmedia recently announcing that it would move 12 small Alberta papers to digital-only formats, it is possible that the Francophonie may have no choice but to follow suit. The days of waking up to a newspaper at your front door could soon be a memory.

Making locals feel like celebrities
and celebrities like locals

During my two years as a journalist for Le Franco, no one ever refused to talk to me.

Months ago, I was reporting on a francophone stand-up comedy night at a local bar in town. After the show, I asked for an interview from one of the brave souls who performed.

She told me, “You made me feel like a star.”

That’s a moment I’ll never forget, and I’m sure she would say the same. Community papers like Le Franco are like that; they build and maintain communities.

Media like Le Franco showcase people who rarely get to stand in the spotlight. They give ordinary people the chance to feel like celebrities, if only for an instant.

Le Franco also helps celebrities show off their Alberta roots. Olympians, professional athletes, or high-profile politicians, French-speakers who grew up in Alberta and spread their wings still show love for Alberta’s only francophone newspaper.

Le Franco may be a small Alberta newspaper, but it has influence right across the country.

Gabrielle Beaupré moved from Quebec to work for Le Franco a year ago. When she called to inquire about a job, Simon-Pierre Poulin, the paper’s editor-in-chief, called back the same day. (French-speaking journalists are rare in this province.)

She says she knew about Alberta’s strong francophone community, and she was grateful for a chance to move to the West, but still live in French.

A Newspaper with influence
throughout the country

“I also thought it would be great to be so close to the mountains.”

She says Le Franco allowed her to cover topics no other journal would have.

“We write about everything and nothing.”

During her time here, she adds, she wrote about  all aspects of life, and got to connect with people from every corner and sector of the province.

Beaupré wasn’t the only one who got to write about politics, health and education.

One of Le Franco’s longstanding traditions, the student-run annual spinoff Plumes Jeunesse, gave students a chance to try their hands at journalism. Every year, the newspaper partnered with francophone and French-immersion K-12 schools to publish an edition solely containing articles from students. This is one of many ways that Le Franco helps promote French language in Alberta.

When I started working at Le Franco, I had no experience in journalism and I could barely speak French; they still welcomed me with open arms.

Despite my shaky command of the language, franco-Alberta never did anything but embrace me.

Even if Le Franco ceases to exist completely, I will always be grateful to it for helping me rediscover my roots. That little paper ignited a passion for the French language and culture in me. I know I’m not the only one.

Vive la francophonie! 

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