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The true digital divide

Last Sunday, Anne-Claire Coudray finished the 8 o'clock news on TF1 with an interview with the singer Stromae. The last question was: “Your song talks a lot about loneliness: does music help you to free yourself?” In response, Stromae sang L'enfer for the first time, whose lyrics speak of suicidal impulses. He acted without getting up, maintaining a talking head shot, without breaking the pose of a formal interviewee.

The audacity went viral and half the world applauded it on the internet, also celebrating Stromae's commitment to mental health and suicide prevention, but the old journalistic guard did not celebrate it. Black-footed analysts from Le Nouvel Observateur or Libération, among others, criticized the frivolity of turning the most watched news in France into a scene of La La Land, breaking almost all deontological codes in a minute and a half.

They're right, but it doesn't matter, because their reasons—which are also mine—sound like old groans. For those of us who have not been educated by youtubers, the newscasts are a secular liturgy: they gather the nation at the same time (mealtime, to bless the food) and mark the themes of the public discussion. That is why they are serious, rigid and predictable, like masses.

Young people have long disbelieved in that faith, and the only way to get them to take a look at it from time to time is to adapt it to their language, which does not understand squeamishness about leads, the five Ws or the separation between information and entertainment. Journalistic ethics sounds darker and more alien to them than a theological discussion about the Talmud, and the reproaches of serious press columnists sound like cries of a demented priest against the relaxation of customs. Therein lies the true digital divide, as definitive and insurmountable as the Protestant Reformation or the fall of the Roman Empire.

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