Chapter 1: the bet
Thursday July 23, 2020. We are in the heart of summer. The first after deconfinement. Will the French go back to the kiosks or throw themselves on the download platforms, in search of breathtaking fictions if they do not find themselves around sporting events? Franck Annese, the boss of the magazine Society, plays quits or doubles. He put on sale 70,000 copies – instead of 50,000 in the summer – an issue showing Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, portrayed like a puzzle.
The title snaps: “What you have never read, Part One”. Annese pulls up his cap, still screwed on his head. He awaits the first returns of his gamble: a soap opera in two episodes on the one he calls XDDL. That is 250,000 characters instead of the 100,000 planned, 76 pages for a four-year investigation. What happened to the man who killed his wife, four children and two dogs? What support did he receive to disappear?
The young boss fears 2 million euros in losses for 2020, following the Covid-19 crisis and the bankruptcy of Presstalis. These two numbers are his lifeline. In its premises in eastern Paris, journalists are already busy on the second opus which comes out on August 6th. The offices of So Press (SoFoot, The label, Pedal, SoFilm) are the old boxes of the Vacquerie theater which… Agnès Dupont de Ligonnès inherited. She once sold them to finance her husband’s start-up. A sign among all those who have peppered this investigation.
Chapter 2: the tidal wave
“The first positive signal, we have it by our newspaper merchant friends, tells us Franck Annese. They call us to tell us that the issues are selling so well that they have no more. As of Saturday, 35,000 copies are reprinted. The following week, the shortage continues. 100,000 copies of the second issue are printed and newsstands are replenished with 50,000 copies of the first. The second issue sold 33,000 copies in one day. Never seen ! And from 6 a.m., we get hit on social networks because the digital version is not online before 9 a.m., following a bug. We hallucinate. We reprint another 100,000 issues of the first and 75,000 of the second! ” In total, “450,000 copies are on newsstands and available until October 1” smiles Franck Annese. Stroke of genius.
Chapter 3: the genesis
As he works on the launch of Societyin 2015, Franck Annese is already investigating Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès. “If we find him, we publish our subject and we stop the fortnightly, he throws then bravado. It is not yet a journalistic investigation but a geek work on the case that we are doing with two of my journalists, Maxime Chamoux and Sylvain Gouverneur. I then end up giving up my place to Pierre Boisson, for lack of time. We collect information, testimonials. We approach Diego Bunuel via Canal+ then Netflix to make a documentary in parallel. We trust them to have information. Nobody trusts us. But it is the false identification of Glasgow, four years later, which precipitates everything. » Pierre Boisson returns on Friday, October 11, 2019 from vacation in Montreal. He immediately goes to the newspaper. At the question “should we publish everything we have for the next issue? »the team decides in the negative. “But we got back to it 100% to get the subject out quickly” explains Pierre Boisson.
Chapter 4: complementary profiles
Thibault Raisse, news item journalist who followed the case for The Parisian, strengthens the team. Everyone has a different profile: Maxime Chamoux is a musician, signed by Franck Annese’s Vietnam label before starting to write. Sylvain Gouverneur is an author. Together, they wrote a series soon to be broadcast on Arte. Pierre Boisson structures the investigation and holds the pen. They phosphorize in a renamed meeting room “secret cell”. “We locked ourselves there from November to February, admits Pierre Boisson. These days of work are interspersed with investigations in the field, always in pairs to meet our sources, and telephone interviews with key witnesses. »
Chapter 5: Mysterious Sources
“We have five key witnesses, in the entourage of Ligonnès”admits Franck Annese. Not to mention police and judicial sources on which he refuses to dwell. If their investigation opens up new leads, the police can officially relaunch it. But how did the journalists manage to get them to talk, revealing the hold that XDDL had on those around him? “It was our non-sensationalist vision that won them over. We have earned their trust because we are honest. If you knew everything we didn’t write, out of respect for the victims. We didn’t want to make a coup but focus on the collateral damage it caused. And find it” he confides.
Chapter 6: unsuspected bursts
During the investigation, luck was sometimes invited as during this concert at the end of which Maxime Chamoux is approached by a young woman. He ends up identifying it as an ex-adventure of XDDL. Later, when the newspaper was due out in April 2020, the Covid-19 crisis, coupled with the sinking of Presstalis, postponed the project. There is no question of releasing the newspaper while the press distributor sequesters the newspapers’ receipts.
Chapter 7: the epilogue
Whether Society missed its target (finding XDDL), it succeeded in its bet: creating the event by bringing readers back to the kiosks. Franck Annese is overwhelmed by the solicitations of fictions, documentaries and other collaborations. He has refused everything for the moment. His only plan is to publish the investigation in book form in November. He will end his year in balance. Even with some benefits. And still hopes to find Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès…