Eleanor Beardsley

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in June 2004, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy.

Beardsley has covered both 2007 and 2012 French presidential elections as well as the Arab Spring in Tunisia, where she witnessed the overthrow of the autocratic President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. She reported on the riots in French suburbs in 2005 and the massive student demonstrations in 2006. Beardsley has followed the Tour de France cycling race and been back to her old stomping ground — Kosovo — to report for NPR on three separate occasions.

Prior to moving to Paris, Beardsley worked for three years with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. She also worked as a television producer for French broadcaster TF1 in Washington, DC and as a staff assistant to Senator Strom Thurmond.

Reporting from France for Beardsley is the fulfillment of a lifelong passion for the French language and culture. At the age of 10 she began learning French by reading the Asterix The Gaul comic book series with her father.

While she came to the field of radio journalism relatively late in her career, Beardsley says her varied background, studies and travels prepared her for the job as well as any journalism school. "I love reporting on the French because there are so many stereotypes about them that exist in America," she says. "Sometimes it's fun to dispel the false notions and show a different side of the French. And sometimes the old stereotypes do hold up. But whether Americans love or hate France and the French, they're always interested!"

A native of South Carolina, Beardsley has a Bachelor of Arts in European history and French from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and a Masters Degree in International Business from the University of South Carolina.

Beardsley is interested in politics, travel and observing foreign cultures. Her favorite cities are Paris and Istanbul.

Russia's worsening economy is having an impact far beyond its borders — even affecting Alpine ski resorts where Russians once flocked.

For the past decade, they've come in large numbers to ski the fabled Alpine slopes around Mont Blanc. But the drop in the ruble is now keeping them away. And that's having an effect on the wintertime economy in the region.

"Making aliyah," or returning to Israel, is usually a cause for celebration among Jews. But recently fear has pushed many Jews to leave France — a record 7,000 departed last year.

And that was before the recent Paris attacks that included the killing of four Jews at a kosher grocery store.

Jean Marc Illouz, a former senior correspondent for French television, who is also Jewish, says he's been pushing back against what he calls ridiculous comments on the Internet about anti-Semitism in France. He says Americans seem to think it's a resurgence of Nazism.

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Last week's shootings in Paris shocked the French. Many received another jolt when they learned that some Muslim students refused to join in the minute of national silence observed across the country following the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

The newspaper Le Figaro quoted one teacher in a heavily Muslim neighborhood in the eastern city of Strasbourg as saying that 80 percent of her students did not participate.

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French police are still searching for the gunmen who killed 12 people in Wednesday's attack on the Charlie Ebdo publication in Paris. They also investigated what appears to have been a second attack on Thursday, in which two police officers were shot — one fatally.

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Last month at a meeting of the far-right National Front in the French city of Lyon, there was a special guest: Andrey Isayev, a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's political party.

The apparent contradiction of political philosophies didn't seem to dampen the crowd's enthusiasm for Isayev's message: Long live Franco-Russian friendship, and down with the European Union! Isayev called the EU a "spineless lackey of the United States."

Parisians are going gaga over An American in Paris, the first-ever stage production of the 1951 Hollywood film starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron and with a musical score by George Gershwin.

The performance at Paris' Chatelet theater is getting rave reviews and has completely sold out. It's not hard to see why: The stage comes alive with the story of an American artist and the young French dancer he falls in love with. It's filled with fabulous dancing and all those great Gershwin tunes.

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A French hostage returned to Paris today after being held for three years by al-Qaida in the Sahara. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports the man's release has revived questions about whether and how governments should deal with hostage takers.

In separate recording studios and separate songs, two groups of international stars have harnessed the power of their voices to help raise awareness of Ebola.

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For an American, watching a Sinterklaas parade, like the one I recently went to in Amsterdam, can be a bit of a shock. Because dancing around the dear old Dutch Santa are his helpers, known as Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete.

And Black Pete is played by scores of white people dressed up in black face ... and wearing Afro wigs.

In the past few years, Black Pete has come under fire. A beloved tradition for some, others say he is a racist stereotype. And the increasingly rancorous debate over Black Pete has gripped the Netherlands.

On a recent night in France, conservative journalist Eric Zemmour, author of Le Suicide Francais (French Suicide), was under attack on a talk show — again. The debate over Zemmour's book has monopolized conversation on the airwaves and in cafes.

Once known for lace-making, tourism, and being the closest French port to England, Calais has now come to represent a focal point of illegal immigration.

Hundreds of migrants roam the town by day. At night they sleep in squalid tent cities, their clothing hanging on fences and from the trees. The migrants have fled war, poverty and dictatorship, in places like Eritrea, Afghanistan and Sudan. They've traveled over desert and sea, on journeys that often take years.

Now, they're trying to get the last 30 miles to England.

Caroline De Haas has had enough. The French feminist, 34, became so fed up with sexism in the country that she's launched a website to fight it.

Tapping on her keyboard, De Haas brings up the new site, Macholand.fr. On the screen are several "actions" targeted at sexist politicians or advertisers who have crossed the line.

During my recent reporting trip to cover the Ukrainian conflict in the eastern city of Donetsk, I stayed at one of the city's last functioning hotels. It also happens to be the unofficial separatist headquarters, affording me a close-up glimpse of the leaders of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic.

This is the name the separatists have given to this part of eastern Ukraine they want to become independent.

Music resounds through the hallways to signal the end of class at Kiev's Lyceum for the Humanities, one of the Ukrainian capital's top public high schools.

Lively students dressed in dark blue school uniforms pour into the stairwells as they make their way to the next class. Once they're seated at their desks, their teacher explains that today a foreign journalist has come to meet them.

A cease-fire in eastern Ukraine appears to be collapsing, with both the Ukrainian government and separatist forces accusing each other of violating it. That won't come as a surprise to the people of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, who are deeply skeptical.

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In Paris, pleasure boats ply the Seine River as people stroll along its banks on a summer day. The French have six weeks of vacation, free universities, top-notch public transport and arguably the world's best health care system. So who could be unhappy here? Yet in poll after poll, the French rank as some of the biggest malcontents in the Western world.

Parisian Bruno Fontaine is relaxing by the edge of the river. He says his countrymen don't realize how good they have it. But as world travelers, he says he and his wife do.

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France plans to go ahead with the sale of two warships to the Kremlin, even as the European Union and U.S. strengthen sanctions on Russia amid continued fighting in Ukraine and the aftermath of the downed Malaysian airliner.

Jews are leaving France and moving to Israel in unprecedented numbers this year.

With the departures expected to surpass 5,000, France could pull ahead of the U.S. for Jewish emigration to Israel, known as aliya. Usually, making aliya is a cause for celebration. But in France this year, it's tinged with bitterness.

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