Jacques Gonnet from Montpellier, professor, researcher and founder of the Educational Information Center for Media Relations (Clemi) and School Press Week, speaks on the occasion of the 33rd edition.
An eternal positivist, but with a rare word, given his genuine modesty, Montpellier resident Jacques Gonnet is also a researcher and former professor at the Sorbonne. He returns to the importance of information for the little ones. A key tool for their understanding of the world.
How does it all start?
I very quickly became interested in public affairs, their transmission of information and listening to young people, in particular, what they say and write in their school newspapers. What interested me was the attitude to others, to questions, to difficult things: “What to do with the information received?”.
In 1981, I wrote two books about the school press and school newspapers. That same year, I was not a member of the Socialist Party, but asked to meet at the Elysee Palace. I was received by Mitterrand’s chief of staff, who told me: “Make a page of your project and I will contact you.” Fifteen days later, he shows me a letter on which François Mitterrand had just marked yes.
Is Clemi born from there?
Yes. And if it worked, it’s because a lot of work has been done before. In particular, journalists, pedagogical associations. All these people have been trying for years to get the press into the school. In 1968, a teacher who came to class with a newspaper under his arm risked getting a warning! In 1981, Savary received me and said: “It’s up to you.” In private, he also told me, “This is a public service mission, and therefore the money will come from us, the Ministry of Public Education.”
Then I met thirty chief editors of the regional press. They looked at me and said: “Wait, Gonnet, we are expecting very specific things from you!” I was the happiest person in the world! Then I suggested to the minister that a board of directors be formed, consisting of one-third of the journalists. Its first president was Ivan Levai. In each region, the rectors appointed a delegate. In Montpellier it worked very well. Marguerite Cros did a wonderful job there!
How about press week at school?
I went and knocked on Jospin’s door. He listened to me and said, “Talk to my colleague (Communications Minister Caroline Tasca, editor’s note)They agreed and said: “OK, run!” I had no idea what was going to happen, but I had brilliant colleagues (including Benoit Menu). I had no practical sense, they had it! To my surprise, everyone played it, because it is a volunteer job for teachers, and all the ministers followed me right and left.
And today ?
We are at thirty-third and three to four million young people are participating with teachers, parents, journalists… It’s a lot of fun. Because democracy cannot be defended, it must be promoted! This is not invented, it does not fall from the sky! There are democratic practices, and this can be learned. Where ? At school ! And to believe that the news will not interest a baby of 6-7 years old is a lie! Children today want information but are more anxious in their demand for answers. Then they were more carefree.
Three weeks ago, during the opening of the exhibition, Mikael Delafosse took me aside and said: “If I’m here, it’s probably thanks to you. I was 13 years old and I discovered the abs at school, Clemi, and we made a newspaper together. That day I subscribed to two, three newspapers, and she never left me. Also say that I admire teachers because they do a great job.
When did you stop?
In 2004, after 20 years of Clémi’s work with Minister Xavier Darcos. I was also a teacher, I couldn’t take it anymore. I told my colleagues: “I’m leaving, otherwise my wife will beat me!” I had to give up.
Does it exist elsewhere?
Press Week at the school has spread to Argentina, Quebec, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain… But after that, there is genius in every country. In Argentina, a rather masculine country, this was done by a woman, Roksana Mordukovich, who told the editors: “We must do the same as in Clemi, but we have no money … it must come from you!”.
“Our culture is writing”
“The press has fallen? Yes, I felt it. Nevertheless, our culture is a culture of writing. Even if we are in a phase of transition, when the image invades everything, at some point the teachers will turn to writing. As soon as you want to argue , understand, writes!, according to Jacques Gonnet. Who is the author of a dozen books.
And to this eternal optimist to explain further: “If you look closely, one element is true and stable: it is a taste for information, a desire to educate young people, to make newspapers ourselves. The intuition of a teenager is extraordinary. Why deprive yourself? those who tomorrow will carry society and promote democracy and its values. Actually, I’m optimistic. Subsequently, what form it will take … The place of writing, this is important, and this is what allows you to argue. That there are pendulums, as with the advent of the telephone, of course! But it won’t take anything away.”
As for the future of information on paper… “It’s hard for me … As a child, I dreamed of becoming a bookbinder. Paper is our culture. But here a 76-year-old man is talking to you. even in the fog. What exists with paper is so strong that in some the moment will reappear.”