How does a 32 year old woman become deputy chief editor for the North Africa and Middle East section of the weekly Jeune Afrique newspaper? Neila Latrous overcame stereotypes and developed an incredible capacity to adapt to the highly competitive market of political journalism. We delve into this niche strategy incubated at Grenoble Ecole de Management.
Traveling is an excellent training ground for a growing youth… As a result, Neila mastered English, Arab and French. She was born in Lille, France, then lived in Algeria at 4 years of age and Tunisia at 5 years of age. She returned to Lille at 18 years of age and joined Grenoble Ecole de Management at 20. Twelve years later, her life continues to shift between Paris, Tunis and Algiers. Neila particularly remembers the identity shared by her mother: “As a foreigner in Tunisia (she was born of Algerian parents), my mom was one of the first female doctoral graduates of Algeria, in Chemistry. I always heard her say that a gas takes all the space it’s given. So I’ve always remembered to take all the space (or jobs!) I could…”
A unique path towards her career
“I wanted to become a journalist when I was a teen. GEM was a logical choice. At 18, I needed a solid training program to work in the French media sector. GEM’s focus on oral skills, role playing and learning hands-on in the fields of communication, management and web marketing enabled me to take a different path and earn my spot,” explains Neila.
After two years in prep school, Neila went to GEM and created a learning experience that matched her ambitions. First, she got actively involved in the GEM Debate association, which organizes conferences with political and economic leaders. She also invested time and energy in the school newspaper. “The second step was my internship at the end of my first year, which was followed by a work/study contract with the online magazine team of Féminin Bio. I was able to highlight my web marketing skills.”
LCI: joining the TF1 group
In 2008, the third determining step was joining LCI, the continous news channel for the TF1 group. Neila joined the company during a placement year between her second and third years at GEM. “My mission was to contact and program political guest appearances. At the time, I already had a good list of contacts thanks to the leaders I had contacted as part of the GEM Debate association…” Her first year at LCI was a key turning point: the news outlet had to deal with competition caused by the launch of BFM TV. “It was important for LCI to reduce costs. As a result, I tried to volunteer and be as enthusiastic as possible! I had to make a place for myself and compensate for the fact I hadn’t gone to journalism school.” The strategy worked and Neila managed to earn a spot on a weekend morning show. Her third year at GEM was shared with her job as a political reporter for LCI Radio show.
Neila also spent time writing political investigative stories. At first, the investment seemed like a crazy bet, but it paid off with two publications about the UMP political party!
TF1: confirmation at the sides of Laurence Ferrari
“In 2012, TF1 offered me the chance to be a replacement assistant news anchor. The job was to check all of the news anchor’s information before it was presented. I worked with Jean-Pierre Pernaud, Claire Chazal… and Laurence Ferrari, with whom I share a passion for political life. It was a defining relationship for me as she had me participate in the preparation of her political interviews. I discovered the TF1 war machine during an electoral season. It was a great learning opportunity.”
In 2012, Laurence Ferrari left TF1 and Neila followed her to Canal+. “I left a long term contract for a short term contract at C8 where I became journalist for a show, Le Grand 8. The show turned progressively towards entertainment and it was a good chance for me to question my career and desires.”
Going back to the Arab world as a professional
In January 2013, an important terrorist attack took place in southern Algeria. Then, in springtime President Bouteflika suffered a stroke. With her Algerian passport, Neila decided to go to Algiers in July as a freelance journalist as she noticed a real lack of foreign news correspondents. “There were only a few of us. I therefore decided to create a production company in Algeria. I worked for BFM TV, TF1, France 2, France 3, LCI, Europe 1, RTL, RTBF, Radio Canada, Radio Vatican… I became an important source of news coming out of Algeria. Sometimes I missed interviews or didn’t react quick enough, but I learned!”
In 2015, Neila came back to France to work on politics for BFM TV where she followed the FN, Insoumis, Elysée, Matignon and Parliament. In 2017 she followed Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s legislative campaign and Marine Le Pen’s presidential campaign.
As of May 2018, Neila is deputy chief editor of the Northern Africa and Middle East section of Jeune Afrique. She is in charge of news content for 14 pages in the weekly newspaper as well as subjects published on the web and the team of journalists working to ensure editorial production.