The world s entertainment press tripped over themselves, making embarrassing errors along the way, as they fought to be first to report the biggest celebrity story of the year: the birth of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt s twins.
In the end, the scoop went to a provincial French newspaper.
It was Brad Pitt who chose to give the scoop to Nice-Matin, said assistant editor-in-chief Olivier Biscaye. He said to the doctor that the local media should be the first informed about the birth.
Nice-Matin put one of its most experienced reporters on the story, Jean-Francois Roubaud, who was given access that the rest of the media pack camped outside the Lenval hospital could only dream about. While security kept out other reporters, Roubaud was allowed inside and given access to Jolie s obstetrician, Dr Michel Sussmann.
So while the In Touch Weekly website almost got it right when it reported that twin girls had been born Saturday, Nice-Matin knew better. The newspaper also spared itself the frenzied run-around of other news outlets following a false report by US-based television program Entertainment Tonight at the end of May that the twins had been born.
The French gossip magazine Closer also claimed a world exclusive when it mistakenly anticipated the birth of the twins by nearly two weeks, and several gossip websites got their names wrong.
We knew we would be the first in the world, said Christophe Caietti, editor of the Nice-Matin magazine section, which spotlighted the birth with a special insert Monday.
Roubaud was given a heads-up that the Caesarean section was going to be performed 30 minutes before Jolie went in for the delivery Saturday evening. The birth certificates show that Knox Leon was born at 6:27 pm and his sister, Vivienne Marcheline, a minute later.
Roubaud spoke to the doctor around 10 pm. We had all the details: the names, weight, one boy, one girl, said Caietti.
Nice-Matin broke the story when it published news of the births on its website at 2 am Sunday, four hours before the print version hit the newsstands.
The access also gave the paper other little exclusive nuggets, like Pitt s first words after the birth of the twins, as reported by Sussmann: Marvelous, wonderful! and the doctor acknowledging that the date of the delivery had been moved up by about 10 days for the mother s comfort.
As the major daily serving the French Riviera, the 280,000-circulation Nice-Matin has always made celebrity life an integral part of its coverage. The magazine section this summer has featured photos of Naomi Campbell walking along the beach, Jerry Hall in St. Tropez and Faye Dunaway preparing for production of a film about the life of Maria Callas. But the general-interest newspaper prides itself on respecting celebrities privacy.
Nice-Matin has always chosen not to play the game of paparazzi towards the celebrities who have chosen to live in the region. We respect them, and they do likewise. We let them have a peaceful life. This is why I think Brad and Angelina have chosen to make this gift to Nice-Matin, Caietti said.Other celebrities with Riviera residences, including Elton John, Bono and the Edge, often give the newspaper access to events – on the condition they are for local publication only and not for sale, Caietti said.
On Monday, the paper featured a Page One picture taken by its own photographer of Pitt (wearing the must-have item of the summer: a Panama hat) posing alongside Sussmann, Mayor Christian Estrosi and the Lenval hospital director, Bernard Lecat.
Everyone wants that picture. It is not for sale. It would be very expensive, maybe not a million dollars, but very expensive. It is the only picture from the day, Caietti said. But we won t sell it, out of respect for the family.
So far, that is as close as the paper has come to the Jolie-Pitt family. But Nice-Matin will remain on the Brangelina story – with hopes of yet more scoops to come. It has already reported that an unnamed US publication has paid $11 million for exclusive rights to the first photo of the newly expanded Jolie-Pitt family, and that the proceeds will go to charity.
Once that deal is executed, Nice-Matin hopes to get a shot of the twins and their parents.
And maybe an interview at their villa in Correns nearby, Caietti said.