A Crazy Campaign! Q&A With French Reporter Camille Langlade

BFMTV crew in France
BFMTV crew in France
Sruthi Gottipati

PARIS — Five days ahead of the showdown between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in France's crucial presidential elections, Worldcrunch has asked Camille Langlade, a political reporter at the 24-hour French news channel BFMTV to share her experiences covering the non-stop action of national political campaigns, and more. This is the first installment in a series of Worldcrunch articles to get to better know journalists and journalism in different countries around the world. *Sign up here to Worldcrunch iQ, our global contributor platform.

1. What was your most unforgettable reporting experience ever?

My most unforgettable reporting experience is the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of his successor, Benedict XVI in Rome in 2005. I was a correspondent in Italy for a French radio station, and just getting started as a journalist, fresh out of journalism school. For a month, we worked day and night, reporting on the thousands of faithful who gathered on St. Peter's Square, in a silence I've never experienced since. I would leave my home near the Vatican, and straddle over the pilgrims sleeping on the ground as they waited for the funeral of John Paul II. It was all extraordinary — in the literal sense — an out-of-time moment: the decorum surrounding John Paul II's funeral, his body lying in state at St. Peter's Basilica; then the election of Benedict XVI, during the conclave I commented on live from St. Peter's Square, the gray smoke, neither white nor black! It was an unbelievably rich experience because it brought together everything I love in journalism: meeting people, dealing with international and diplomatic affairs and politics, with the conclave.

2. What about your current beat, French politics?

François Hollande's victory on May 6, 2012, which I covered from Tulle Hollande served as mayor of Tulle from 2001 to 2008, was a historic moment in France's political life — the culmination of a one-year campaign that started with the scandal that led to the fall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York Strauss-Kahn had been expected to be a leading candidate for the 2012 French presidency for the Socialist Party. Then the whole campaign of the Socialist candidate, from the primary election to his debut at the Elysée: Witnessing the shock and unpreparedness of a candidate suddenly in power was quite an epiphany. We should have the same transition system as they do in the United States. In France, the candidate becomes president overnight.

3. What has been your most interesting experience reporting on the current French elections?

The whole campaign has been completely crazy! Almost every day, we discovered — and covered — "firsts' in the political history of the Fifth Republic. We lived through and commented live on the end of an era: François Hollande's decision not to run for president again a first for an incumbent president, the elimination of former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of the Republican primary, Prime Minister Manuel Valls's defeat in the center-left primary.

And above all, the uncertainty, until the very end, about whom so many voters would choose. Every day was full of surprises. At some point, we may have thought: "Sarkozy, Hollande, Le Pen (who all ran in 2012) ... this is going to be one boring campaign." But the race has foiled all predictions. It was such a formidable moment of democratic life.

4. How is the media in France different from other countries?

What struck me about the American election was the amount of space dedicated to Donald Trump. He was ubiquitous because he fascinated the media.

During a presidential campaign in France, we are forced to follow the rules of the CSA, the country's Higher Audiovisual Council: At first, all the main candidates must be given equitable air time depending on how they fared in previous local elections; and then complete equality among all the candidates during the last leg of the campaign. It's not necessarily ideal. The media have been widely accused of rooting for this or that candidate. But at least this type of rule imposes a principle of equity that's beneficial.

5. What is the effect of the demands of a 24-hour news cycle on your work and political campaigns in general?

It has changed everything! We must be on the lookout at all times. Even on non-working days, it's better to stay informed on the latest twist or controversy or political fact. It's extremely dense. Obviously, the main candidates have understood this. They pace their campaign according to the television and social networks. Everything happens so much faster.

Photo: Camille Langlade

6. What's your favorite social media platform? How do you use it while you're reporting?

Twitter, unquestionably. I used it less often this year for lack of time but I try to post what I see or bits of analysis on Twitter regularly. I post photos of meetings, facts: the number of people attending, videos. And I keep an eye Twitter all the time, it has become a reflex and a crucial news tool to keep abreast of what the candidates and their supporters are up to.

7. What's the first word that comes to mind when you hear the name Donald Trump?

I would say "impulsive" or "Twitter".

8. Do you have a favorite phrase or word in French?

I have one in Italian: "Magari", which means "if only" but with a certain positive sense of hope — much stronger than in French.

9. What's your favorite French food and/or drink?

Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red wine) and ratatouille.

10. Which person from your country do you admire the most (living or dead)?

Charles De Gaulle.

11. What are you reading right now?

I read the press everyday! I'm looking forward to reading novels again. I'm eagerly awaiting Elena Ferrante's next book.

12. If you were a character in a book, who would you be and why?

I would be Elena — one of the two friends Elena Ferrante created in her series. She's a hard-working student living in a working-class neighborhood in Naples who passes the entrance exam for the prestigious Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. She makes her way through the second half of the 20th century, trying to be a feminist, fighting to work, write, love freely and raise her children as best as she can. I love her. She's much less romanesque than her friend Lila — the heroine who's incredibly tragic. But I look more like Elena than Lila!

Follow Camille Langlade on Twitter.

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council

Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke

During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press

Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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