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Crisis at French daily Le Monde as chief editors resign

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

France's prestigious daily Le Monde plunged into crisis Tuesday after most of its chief editors resigned from their posts over a conflict with management.

Le Monde, a centre-left daily founded in 1944, is France's newspaper of record and played a prominent role in the coverage of the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"A lack of confidence in and communication with editorial management prevents us from fulfilling our roles as chief editors," seven of the newspaper's senior editors said in an internal letter to management.

They said they remained available to help out until a new team is appointed to replace them to avoid damaging the daily running of the newspaper, but would then take up other unspecified positions.

"We have realised that we are no longer able to assume the tasks entrusted to us, and that's why we are resigning from our respective posts," the editors said in the letter.

A source at the newspaper said it was "exhausting" working under a management they said never communicates, takes decisions without consulting chief editors and fails to respond to simple organisational requests.

"They don't work collectively, we never know what is going on," the source said.

"After a year-and-a-half, it's not working out."

Management was not immediately available for comment.

The editors' gripes centre on Natalie Nougayrede, the newspaper's managing editor, whom staff say is "very difficult to talk to", according to the source.

Nougayrede took up her post in March last year, succeeding the highly respected Erik Izraelewicz who died suddenly of a heart attack in his office in November 2012.

- 'Fighting to raise the bar' -

The crisis at the daily comes as the press in France -- as in many other Western countries -- suffers as the Internet eats into readership and advertising.

With a circulation of over 330,000 last year, Le Monde slightly trails behind its rival Le Figaro daily.

Like many newspapers around the world, the daily has been expanding its digital offering in a bid to keep its head afloat, but the internal source said management was not competent in this area.

"We're constantly fighting to raise the bar," the source said.

The problems at Le Monde come hot on the heels of a crisis at another major, struggling daily in France.

Journalists at the left-wing Liberation have been up in arms against a surprise plan by owners to try to turn the newspaper around.

The head of the newspaper, started by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, announced his resignation in February due to the journalists' revolt.

Owners of Liberation have put forward a plan to create a "social network" using the newspaper's brand and to convert its offices into a cultural centre featuring a cafe, TV studio and business area to help start-ups.

But staff have rejected the project, saying journalism must remain its main focus.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140506/crisis-at-french-daily-le-monde-chief-editors-resign