On 1 February, Le Canard Enchaîné, a weekly satirical newspaper in France, ran a characteristically tongue-in-cheek front-page headline: “I Keep Telling You That Penelope Hasn’t Done Anything!”
The headline was a fictional quote from François Fillon, a former prime minister of France, and at the time, a prominent presidential candidate in the country’s upcoming general election. (In late April, Fillon lost in the first round of the election.) Le Canard’s headline was alluding to an explosive story that had broken the previous week revealing that Fillon’s wife, Penelope, had been officially employed—and handsomely paid—as her husband’s parliamentary assistant for years, despite never doing any such work. This scandal, which later widened in scope to similarly phony positions for Fillon’s children, tarnished the candidate’s carefully crafted image of a righteous family man.
What may surprise those unfamiliar with French media is that, despite the newspaper’s satirical bent, it was Le Canard that broke the scandal. Le Canard Enchaîné—which directly translates to “the chained duck,” but is also a play on “canard,” slang for “newspaper”—publishes satire, humour and cartoons alongside hard-hitting reportage. The weekly often runs investigative stories that other outlets, including high-profile dailies, have missed. Le Canard also does not publish ads, has a sparse online presence, and is collectively owned by its staff members—characteristics that distinguish it from virtually all other French media outlets, making it an unlikely leader of the pack.