Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’



Giuseppe D’Avanzo, a great Italian journalist has left us today.

I had the fortune of meeting D’Avanzo once in late 2006, shortly after the height of what is known in Italy as “Nigergate,” a scandal that put the country right in the middle of what the United States were going through at the time with the so-called “Plamegate.”

D’Avanzo, alongside Repubblica colleague Carlo Bonini, was able to dig through the thick and intricate web of lies and deceitful acts the Italian government of Berlusconi accomplished to help out George W. Bush gather information for his campaign to start a war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

D’Avanzo simply did what all journalists should do: He followed the facts.

What he found out was that a robbery at the Niger embassy in Rome on New Year’s of 2001 led to the disappearance of official stamps and letterheads… and that led to many other suspicious details. Continue Reading »


There are reasons why people in and out of Italy believe Silvio Berlusconi is one of the main causes of the dumbing down of Italian people.

The main reasoning is that he has produced a new TV-dependent culture that increasingly has a more difficult time producing critical thoughts on a wide array of subjects. He has been able to set up, to put it in Marshall McLuhan’s words, the “continually beating tribal drum,” where the media is in a state of perpetual inflation of the news.

There are still some who read papers, though, and so to mitigate whatever critical thinking these readers might develop, Berlusconi has been careful to craft the newspaper version of his television credo.

Il Giornale, the daily newspaper that the current Italian prime minister bought in 1977 and sold to his brother Paolo in 1994, is his “drum-beat” machine in the newspaper industry, occasionally supported by the right-wing efforts of other pro-Berlusconi “drum-beaters” such as Libero.

The problem is much larger than a pro- or anti-Berlusconi stance of newspapers in Italy. It is the ultimate watered-down cultural environment they are producing that is most worrisome.

What’s worse, a newspaper like Il Giornale seems to have internalized and adopted a Mediaset (the media empire belonging to the Berlusconi family) approach to news. Instead of striving to be an instrument of truth and enlightenment, the paper has thrown all its aspirations of educating while informing out the window, chasing news stories with an approach that is so simplistic it is horrifying.

That is how you end up with veteran editor Vittorio Feltri writing one of the most outrageous editorials I have read in my life, titled “Those youngsters incapable of reacting.” Continue Reading »

This morning, before doing my usual round of Italian news websites, I was feeling a little sleepy, so I took my time sipping my coffee and checking out what was going on on Twitter.

A post by famous Italian journalist and former Sole 24 Ore editor in chief Gianni Riotta caught my attention immediately. Around 8:40 a.m. EST, Riotta posted the following tweet:

What that links to is the integral and unedited version of “2083. A European Declaration of Independence,” an over-1,000 page document allegedly written by Andrew Berwick, which sounds like the Anglicized name of Anders Breivik, the alleged mass-murderer who is suspected of placing a bomb in downtown Oslo and going off on a shooting spree on the island of Utoya, where a youth gathering of Norway’s ruling Labour Party was taking place.

At the moment, the number of victims is up to 93.

I was surprised and shocked at the same time to see this document in its entirety. Being a journalist myself, I quickly downloaded it and started going through its long index. Continue Reading »

There’s this veteran journalist in Italy, Emilio Fede, who is known for his pro-Berlusconi bias. That’s fine with me, he’s got his political views and I respect that.

I don’t like the fact that he has a highly visible and national TV news program to express his partisan views, but he’s on a private, Berlusconi-owned

Emilio Fede, picture from

(and unconstitutional) TV channel, so I guess he’s free to say what he wants.

What he’s not free to say, at least not without me getting very angry for it, is that Roberto Saviano is “not a hero,” suggesting the author of Gomorrah should not try to be at the center of attention all the time. He’s said it before, but this time it was for a different reason.

Fede, who often is infuriated with fellow staff members if some news item regarding Berlusconi goes wrong, has touched a level of indignity that I, as an Italian, am ashamed of. The journalist’s attempt at defending a shameful announcement made by Berlusconi a few weeks ago is much worse than Berlusconi’s initial criticism of Gomorrah.
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For over ten years an Italian freelance journalist has been making up interviews. Is he a nutcase or has he been out on a propaganda mission? I’m convinced of the latter, and I’ll explain why.

Tommaso Debenedetti is (was) an Italian freelance journalist who has been caught making up interviews with Nobel laureates, former presidents, international literary superstars and other important names.

Judith Thurman, for the New Yorker magazine, dug deeper into a lead that had been picked up earlier by the Italian blogosphere: Interviewed by daily newspaper La Repubblica, novelist Philip Roth said he never heard of Debenedetti, even though Debenedetti’s signature is on at least five “interviews” with Roth.

So Thurman made a few phone calls and soon found out Debenedetti, who comes from a family of famous and respected literary critics, had made up a whole bunch of interviews.

Here’s a short list of people allegedly interviewed by Debenedetti: Philip Roth, Elie Wiesel, Gore Vidal, Ken Follett, Paul Grisham, Noam Chomsky, Joseph Ratzinger (just before becoming Pope), Mikhail Gorbachev, Günter Grass, Herta Müller, Wilbur Smith, Nadine Gordimer… just to name a few.

What is incredible is that Debenedetti, on the phone with Thurman, denied fabricating any interview, adding he had either lost or thrown away documental evidence of his interviews.

At this point, it seems clear that Debenedetti is a liar.
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When I was first hired as editor at a local free-press magazine in Rome, Italy, I came with ideas, enthusiasm and willingness to work as hard as I could to increase readership.

The publisher looked at me and said without hesitation: “That’s all wonderful, but in the end all I care about is that you get advertisers in. I don’t really care if no one reads the magazine.”

The struggle to make any news business profitable and keeping it interesting at the same time was at the center of the second half of the Chicago Media Future Conference, held at Columbia College Chicago on Saturday, June 13.

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As journalists we are continually looking for answers.

Saturday’s Chicago Media Future Conference tried to find some answers to some of the most fundamental questions that have been hovering over every journalist’s head as of lately: How do people consume the news and how can we – as journalists – make money selling the news? The two questions were addressed by two separate panels.

The first panel tried to focus on news consumption and innovative models of news distribution, especially on the local (ex. Gapers Block) and hyper-local (Everyblock) levels. Everyone seemed to pretty much agree that one of the reasons the traditional newspaper is in crisis is because it had significantly reduced its coverage of local news.

During the second panel discussion, Patrick Spain, CEO of Newser, said the New York Times would disappear in a year and a half and the Trib and Sun-Times wouldn’t be around anymore next year.

Medill professor Rich Gordon, however, said he didn’t believe newspapers were going to disappear so quickly.

“Print is not going to die until the digital platform substitutes everything the newspaper does today,” he said. We might get there one day, he added, as screen technology evolves.

Does that mean one day we’ll all be walking around with Kindles, Blackberrys or iPhones and getting our news exclusively from there? To me, this scenario appears to still be very distant. For two reasons:

1. Right now that technology comes with a high cost. The devices are getting cheaper every year, as demonstrated by the new iPhone for only $99, but you are then bound to pay relatively high monthly fees to actually use them.

2. A lot more people need to know how to use these wonderful devices. I think some journalists are so hyped up with new technology that they often think everyone else uses the internet just like they do.

Well, that’s not how it works. The reason why newspapers will survive for quite some time (most will change, some will fail, but they’ll still be around) is because they are still today the simplest way to get the news.

News distribution in newspapers is based on the “push” model: The news is packaged and handed to you.

Since most people are not information-junkies, they won’t waste their time on countless news websites that pretty much all offer a “pull” model: You get a homepage with as much information possible, and you’re just one click away from all you need. If you’re a journalist, you probably can look through tons of links and other pages. After all, that’s what we do for a living.

But if you’re just someone trying to get some information on what happened in your town, how are you supposed to know that there are dozens of websites out there that can give you in-depth coverage on almost any topic?

The answer, for now, is you can’t.

In my opinion, news-websites still today are trying to figure out how to create a single, compact and user-friendly “package” that will truly substitute the newspaper. That’s why hyper-local news websites can be successful: They are very specific “packages”.

How to get all these “packages” into one big “container” so that people don’t have to waste their days on their computers, now that’s something we should start talking about.