Parachute journalism, parachute militantism

Carolina Jimenez-Marcos cjm at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Wed Jun 23 09:07:25 UTC 2004

I'm looking for the earliest uses of "parachute journalism" and its sister
phrases in both English and French. It means jumping into a situation in
which you have little experience and then speaking as if you know it all.
(Hm, sounds like grad school.) I imagine it was coined in one of the two
languages during a war. Could you help me out with your own lexicography or
point me to helpful research tools?

During my research on student-worker miscommunication in France in Mar
1968, I found that the workers used "parachutists" to refer to students,
Maoists and Trotskists who didn't understand the workers' history but told
them what to do. Farmers called such people "comets" because they came,
burned with enthusiasm and vanished--never to return. (See Kristin Ross,
_May 68 and Its Afterlives_, 2002, p. 112.)

As a journalism student, I became familiar with "parachute journalism," or
superficial reporting. War journalists who were sent from the home office
after the first shots were fired in a foreign country were compared to
journalists who had been at the foreign office for years before war broke
out. (See _Of the Press, by the Press, for the Press (and Others, Too)_,
Washington Post, 1974.)

Were the French workers in May 1968 borrowing a term made popular in a
specific war (conscious of its connotations) or was it already a cliche
with a forgotten history? Was the war recent, as in World War II or later?
Did it come from French, English or another language?

Thanks for your help,
Journalism & French Studies master's candidate, NYU

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