Some 30 AAPA members were given a fascinating insight into the philosophy behind the French on-line investigative newspaper Mediapart, in a lively two-hour discussion with Mediapart’s founder Edwy Plenel on May 15.

During the meeting, which took place in Mediapart’s editorial offices in the 12th arrondissement, Mr. Plenel outlined what had motivated him to create the fast-growing publication whose circulation has been boosted in recent years by a succession of revelations of misconduct by prominent figures of the French establishment.

He shrugged off accusations that Mediapart is a muck-raking organ bent on embarrassing people in high places, and noted that thanks to its disclosure of foreign bank accounts by former Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac, the Hollande administration has implemented reforms for more transparency of government ministers’ finances.

“Everyone said we were crazy when we were looking for financial backers” in 2008, he recalled. Mediapart was loss-making in the early years of its life, but the revelations into the Bettencourt affair sucked in readers. Last year it turned a tidy profit of more than 700,000 euros despite being entirely ad-free and relying solely on subscriptions. From zero in 2008, the website now has 75,000 subscribers, and has set a goal of 100,000.

Mr. Plenel spoke at length about his independent crusade to throw light into the French administration’s pervasive culture of secrecy, saying he aims to bring about greater accountability and democracy to French society.