Wednesday, March 31, 2021
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report. Cover the political management of the health crisis

President Emmanuel Macron, Thursday March 25, 2021, at the Elysee Palace, during a press conference, after a European Council summit, shows a graph concerning the doses of vaccines against Covid-19. (BENOIT TESSIER / POOL / AFP)

Every Thursday, it has become a ritual, the executive gives a press conference. The political services of the editorial staff are following them with attention. Jean-Jérôme Bertolus, head of the political service of radio franceinfo, is the guest of Profession : reporter.

Even if behind the scenes, journalists question the ministerial teams on the front line on a daily basis. How to deal with announcements, confusions, contradictions? What info to give or not to give? A reform that goes wrong, a crisis, social movements, outbreaks of violence …

The governments of the day all have difficult times to deal with, but time is always on its way. And one sequence chases the other. What is unprecedented with the pandemic is that it has become established over time. For more than a year, we have barely talked about anything but Covid-19, even if talking about it and hearing about it tires us out, we cannot do otherwise, since our life is directly correlated to the news of the pandemic.

There is only one dominant fact for a year, the management of the health crisis. And the country remains suspended from the Thursday announcements which set rules in direct relation to our personal, family and intimate organizations. How do journalists work in this perimeter made up of uncertainties and contradictions?

At franceinfo, the radio, Jean-Jérôme Bertolus heads the political service. The team is obviously mobilized each time you speak. For Thursday announcements, the first question is who will speak. It is a barometer. If it is Olivier Véran, Minister of Health and Jérôme Salomon, Director General of Health, we can reasonably think that it will be information in relation to the health situation or the extension of existing measures to a perimeter. bigger.

Paris.  Olivier Véran, Minister of Health, during the press conference on Thursday, March 25, 2021 on the government's strategy in the fight against the third wave of the coronavirus. & Nbsp;
Paris. Olivier Véran, the Minister of Health, during the press conference on Thursday, March 25, 2021 on the government’s strategy in the fight against the third wave of the coronavirus. (LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)
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If it is the Prime Minister, we can expect the statement of new restrictions with the motivations that go with them. If it is the President of the Republic – and according to the heads of the political service, it will be the case, during April – we can envisage that he intervenes to fix the different levels of the way out of the crisis. Depending on the cast of the executive, there is therefore a natural framework that arises. Then there is the question of the content of the intervention.

For Jean-Jérome Bertolus, in the context which is ours, the use of the conditional is impossible. And when the ministers, in the confusion of attestations, can contradict each other, or settle accounts off-set, when the opposition takes the opportunity to denounce the confusions or the absence of common sense, the priority in the mission to inform is to to turn away from his quarrels to understand exactly what it is possible to do or not to do for the French.

Check if decrees are signed, how to operate procedures, where to get vaccinated, who is eligible. Because it is obvious that the first need of the citizen is practical, reliable and precise information, and not the noise of political quarrels amplified by a media sounding board.

In this, the work of the political journalist changes. Here he is embarked on practical information, but which is the responsibility of elected officials. But the passing days bring us closer to 2022, and the pandemic is gradually connecting to an election campaign. That of the presidential election. Beforehand, we will have regional and departmental ones, and these local polls will see their themes contaminated by the virus. And the virus, beyond the announcements and decisions taken to protect us from it, is obviously becoming a political fact.

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