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La Croix (French pronunciation: [la'kʁwa] ; English: The Cross) is a daily French general-interest Roman Catholic newspaper. It is published in Paris and distributed throughout the country, with a circulation of just under 110,000 as of 2009. It is not explicitly liberal or conservative on major political issues, rather adopting a human-centered approach in its style of journalism, in line with the Church's position. However, La Croix ought not be confused with a religious newspaper—its topics are of general interest: world news, the economy, religion and spirituality, parenting, culture and science. The paper was founded in 1880 and is owned by Bayard Presse.
Upon its appearance in 1880, the first version of la Croix was a monthly news magazine. When the Augustinians of the Assumption who ran the paper realised that the monthly format was not getting the widespread readership they desired, they decided to convert to a daily sheet sold at one penny. Accordingly La Croix transitioned into a daily on 16 June 1883. Father Emmanuel d'Alzon (1810–1880), the founder of the Assumptionists and the Oblates of the Assumption, started the paper, although its biggest early advocate was Father Vincent-de-Paul Bailly.
La Croix succeeded in bringing together certain groups of Roman Catholics who were seeking to position themselves outside of party politics and ideologies. At the end of the 19th century, it was the most widely read Roman Catholic publication in France, with a clerical readership of more than 25,000. It gained more readers during the Dreyfus affair with its vicious and sustained antisemitism. On 25 January 1900, the Assumptionists were dissolved by law by Waldeck-Rousseau, and the newspaper's publishing house, la Bonne Presse, was purchased by Paul Féron-Vrau.
For many years, la Croix appeared in two formats. The first was a small-format periodical aimed at popular readership, the second a large-format newspaper aimed at a more intellectual audience. In 1927, Father Leon Merklen having become editor in chief, la Croix began to address social problems. This was led to the initiative founding Catholic Action and also helped to create a formal link between the Catholic working youth and the French Roman Catholic Church.
During the Second World War La Croix moved its editorial offices first to Bordeaux, then to Limoges. The paper was shut down comparatively late in the occupation, on 21 June 1944. It would not reappear until February 1945. Father Gabel oversaw the relaunch of the paper. Editor in chief from 1949, he introduced new sections, such as sports, cinema, fashion, and theatre. On 1 February 1956, La Croix began to appear for the first time without a crucifix as a part of its header. In March 1968, the newspaper adopted a tabloid format.
In January 1972, the newspaper changed its name to la Croix-l’Événement ("the Cross-the Event"). The choice of the new title was a reflection of the editorship's desire to show that the paper was not just a religious paper, but a regular daily, reflective of modern society. The paper has a very loyal readership, as expressed by the fact that 87% of its sales are by subscription, but its low ad-space and the high cost of distribution still mean the paper run at a deficit, which is covered by the other publications of Bayard Presse such as the magazine Le Pèlerin and a number of children's titles.
To celebrate its centennial in 1983, la Croix-l’Événement took on a newer, more attractive layout, added new sections and saw the arrival as editor in chief of Noël Copin. The readership continued to decline, but the new team led by Bruno Frappat, former editing director of Le Monde who arrived in January 1995, hopes to fight against this trend of general disaffectation with the press which is plaguing a large number of French newspapers. (A regular printing in 1998 would be of about 127,000 copies).
Bayard Press is reacting to this with a double strategy. On the one hand they are investing in the modernisation of La Croix, with electronic editing and a full electronic archive of the paper. On the other hand, they have increased their diversification, taking on a bigger presence in French children's press and adding new publications of a Catholic nature. They have also been involved in coproducing children's television and turning certain titles, such as Notre temps, into international publications.
The paper's efforts have met with some success and in 2005 reported a 1.55% increase in circulation. Today, La Croix is one of only three daily national French newspapers to turn a profit.
The editors of La Croix observed another centennial on January 12, 1998 (the publication of Émile Zola's J'Accuse!, the opening salvo in the defence of Dreyfus) by examining its role in the Dreyfus Affair. Where in 1898 they published "Down with the Jews!" and labeled Dreyfus as "the enemy Jew betraying France," the editors in 1998 stated "Whether Assumptionists or laymen, the editors of La Croix had at the time an inexcusable attitude."
In December 2003, the newspaper La Croix made headlines after firing one of its own journalists, Alain Hertoghe, for writing a book that was allegedly damaging to the newspaper's editorial line. Hertoghe accused the four major French newspapers—Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération and Ouest-France—in addition to La Croix, of biased reporting during the U.S. war in Iraq.
Alain FLEURY, « La Croix » et l'Allemagne. 1930-1940, Paris, Le Cerf, 1986
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