Bob Bishop is a 1964 graduate of Galesburg High School. The former Rock musician and photographer left the city in the early 1970s to seek his fortune. After attending Northern Illinois University and moving to Chicago, he started a publication called the Hyde Parker and continued his free-lance photography. After being sent to Paris for a shoot, he fell in love with the city; he also thought, "what this place needs is a newspaper intended for the English-speaking people here." So he started one.
Bob Bishop has been the editor and directeur de la publication of the Paris Free Voice ever since. In his office along the Seine in the basement of the American Church, sort of a center for expatriate Americans to hang out, Bishop says it's been "madness ever since." "It's been a slow process to get accepted. I just take on the problems one by one. It really took two to three years to get going. I started in my apartment and have moved it several times. In the early days we got space for free and did a lot of community service things; now we pay rent." The problems are myriad. They include the harrowing process of renewing his visa so he can stay, (annually at first, now less frequently) paying the formidable French taxes, hiring the staff, and all the work involved in a monthly publication - now more of a magazine.
While the Free Voice is written in American English, Bishop says it's been well-accepted by the large numbers of Brits, Canadians, and Australians who have also emigrated to the City of Light.
The commercial staff at the paper, which now employs 25 including the freelancers, is mostly British and French: the layout people are British; the writers are Australian and American.
"I try to hold back on nationalistic stuff, says Bishop. I want the paper to be for English-speaking Parisians. We try not to be too critical of the French; even though there is a very free press here, most of the publications are subsidized by a political party and espouse political views of one kind or another. We try to concentrate on arts and entertainment. The French have a little trouble understanding why we don't promote any political views. They also didn't understand the concept of being free and supported by advertising."
The Free Voice is filled with articles about events in Paris, it's more for people who live there than tourists. It's got a section on dealing with the French bureaucracy and French law; others on shopping, technology, apartments and travel. Bishop says, he's now got the best of both worlds. "I get to live in another country and stay in touch with the Anglo culture. He truly appreciates Paris and the joie de vivre not found in any other city in the world. There's a real love of music and art. " There's also a real love-hate relationship between American and France. The young people envy American culture and the government limits their exposure to it. No more the 40 percent of the music on the radio can be foreign."
What France lacks, says Bishop, is the knowledge of "how to do things efficiently. If I was doing this magazine in America, I could be making a lot of money instead of paying a lot of taxes. But when I think that, I think of myself sounding like Ronny Reagan and I shudder." They have a great social security system here, free public education through the university level, universal health care, but extraordinarily high taxes.
Bishop gets back to Galesburg about once a year to see his folks and secure his roots. He visits his old neighborhood by Lombard school. An he appreciates the fact that in American, the son of working class parents had the opportunity to see the world and be a publisher in the most vibrant city in it.
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