Macron interviewed by “Le Papotin”: the real story of an “atypical newspaper”

Macron interviewed by Le Papotin the real story of an

The question is direct, posed without filters and without detour. “Do you have a lot of dough? Are you rich Emmanuel Macron?”. Faced with Grégory, Emmanuel Macron displays an air half-surprised, half-amused. “To tell you the truth, I had more before becoming president,” he replies, quickly revived on a completely different subject. “And do you have many friends? Boyfriends, girlfriends?”. The Head of State does not allow himself to be destabilized. “I’ll be honest with you. President of the Republic, it’s not the best job to have a lot of friends”.

Faced with members of the editorial staff of Papotin, all suffering from an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the tenant of the Elysée cannot evade, nor drown the fish in overly convoluted explanations. The questions he is asked, sometimes pungent or surprising, almost all come out of the codes of a classic interview. “You and I are familiar with each other, do we call each other by our first names?” ; “What is your dog doing in your office right now?” ask some. “Do you want to have children?”, “What is your greatest fear, as Emmanuel?”, ask others, sometimes pushing the head of state to evoke his most personal memories. “Do you miss Manette?” Asks Sébastien, for example, referring to his missing grandmother. “He is the president, he must lead by example and not marry his teacher”, even believes Adrien. What the interviewee will answer him that “when you are in love, you do not choose” – while arguing that Brigitte Macron having been his theater teacher, “it does not count the same”.

“At Papotin, we can say anything. We will have to deal with that,” warned Julien Bancilhon, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, at the start of the exchange. And this transparency works. “The fact that the president is questioned about such personal things, without journalistic calculation and without ulterior motives in the questions, is rare. And precious”, analyzes with the Express this psychologist from the day hospital. ‘Antony, which welcomes adolescents and young adults with eating disorders. For this fourth filmed interview of Papotin meetingsthe sequence conquered more than 4.5 million viewers on France 2, Saturday January 7 – the best audience for the show since its launch last September.

A newspaper “for everyone”

The fifty or so editorial journalists are not, however, for the first time. Before becoming a program broadcast in prime time on France 2, The Papotin is above all a paper journal, founded in 1989 by Driss El Kesri, an educator at the Antony day hospital. Via drawings, interviews, articles written by members of the editorial staff or dictated to educators, the reporters recount their unprecedented encounters with political figures, actors, musicians or journalists. In more than thirty years, profiles as diverse as Barbara, Simone Veil, Anne Hidalgo, André Dussollier, Renaud, Vincent Cassel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Stéphane Hessel or Grand Corps Malade have agreed to answer questions from this “atypical editorial staff”.

But beware: although written by journalists with ASD, The Papotin is not meant to talk about autism. “It was thought out and created as a newspaper intended to be read by the greatest number and which is aimed at everyone, which participates in cultural life like any other magazine”, recalls Julien Bancilhon. “From the outset, we did not want to fall into the pitfall of addressing only readers from structures similar to ours”. Every Wednesday, the editorial staff meets in Paris to discuss the topics of the week and the next personalities to be interviewed. All accompanied by a dozen institutions in the Ile-de-France region of medico-social and health, the journalists present are not selected upstream by The Papotin. “All profiles are welcome: young or old, verbal and non-verbal… Some will use drawing to communicate, for example, others will just give us the benefit of their presence”, testifies the editor-in-chief.

As in any newspaper, meetings with such personalities are being prepared. The lives of the celebrities interviewed – chosen collectively by the editorial staff – will be extensively studied during the Wednesday morning meetings and prior to the interview, during dedicated workshops offered by the respective institutions where the journalists are welcomed. “We bring them all kinds of information, to feed their thinking and that the profile of the interviewees resonates with their own universe or their centers of interest”, says Julien Bancilhon. Sometimes the chosen guests are not unanimous – some journalists, “rather critical” vis-à-vis Emmanuel Macron, preferred not to come to the filming of the show last November. “Others were skeptical but did not make it felt,” adds the psychologist, who rejoices, despite very serious preparation, “of an endless reservoir of surprises” during the interviews conducted by his journalists.

“What is wasting your life?”

Thus, when Yohan asks Julien Doré “what is his original sin” in the third issue of Papotin meetings, the surprise can be read in the eyes of the singer, who thinks for a few seconds before improvising an answer on his presence on our planet. “The question is more than unexpected and original, but no one would think of asking Yohan to rephrase it. Same effect when, after having asked Camille Cottin “what an apricot is”, Akli asks him, calmly, about what “wasting one’s life” means. “Perhaps making yourself suffer for things that aren’t worth it”, breathes the actress, who will address in the same sequence the death of her father – “unacceptable” -, her relationship to authority – ” difficult”… And the color of his socks – “red”. “What is beautiful is this mix between the factual, the unexpected, the appeal to the imagination. These are questions that force you to come up with ready-made answers”, analyzes the editor-in-chief of the Papotin.

Co-producer of the France 2 program, Jérôme Lament insists on the need to transcribe as honestly as possible “the truth of the exchanges” between the interviewee and the members of the editorial staff. “We filmed without artifice, and the a posteriori editing does not try to build the moment, the meeting. That’s what is very impactful: speech is free, and it is never where you think it is situated,” explains this childhood friend of directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, who was behind the launch of Papotin meetings. In front of the cameras, something bigger is playing out. When Emmanuel Macron explains to Pierre that it is possible to fall in love with his supervisor, and that it “does not shock him”, the gaze of the journalist lights up. “It’s very beautiful to have captured this moment in the image. It’s non-verbal, but that says it all”, underlines Julien Bancilhon.

Ditto when Lucile, who usually communicates through drawing, manages to sing Love me, please love me from Michel Polnareff, to the Head of State. “She was able to communicate more directly, and it’s a victory to be able to show that,” notes the caregiver. The psychologist is also pleased with the way his journalists look at themselves since the broadcast of the program on television. “Even if some are disappointed to have been cut in the final cut, they are proud, there is a real desire to be there, to be on TV, to work on their subjects”. Second success: while autism is sometimes caricatured, poorly understood, even mocked, the editor-in-chief of Papotin says he is “very happy” to have been able to “get out of the clichés” and introduce “the diversity of profiles with ASD” to the French, at prime time on France 2.