The Paradoxes of Italian Journalism

If you work in history you are an historian, if you work in archive you are an archivist and if you write for a newspaper you are a journalist, in the rest of the world but not here in Italy.

If you want become a journalist, in Italy, it is complicated. The ODJ (order of journalists) is a public corporation with access rules strikingly different from the rest of Europe.

The state exam uses abstract criteria which show only the knowledge of concepts, but not anything useful for those who really work in a newspaper. Those who pass this arbitrary exam are included in a register of journalists.

So, the Order does not guarantee the quality of work. Publishers should choose journalists based on skills and competencies, not the state exam. This would be logical, but the logic does not live here. In the rest of Europe, journalism follows the logic of the market, of the associations and unions and the State mostly does not interfere.

Before Italy’s state exam can be taken, aspiring journalists must undergo eighteen months of paid apprenticeship in an editorial office. If in the past it was difficult now due to the economic crisis it is almost impossible. No paid apprenticeship no state exam.  And without that slip of paper you are not really a journalist.

There is also a registery of freelance journalists. To became a freelance journalist in Italy you must have done eighteen months of paid apprenticeship, this time without the state exam. But the critical issue is the same. Instead of the apprenticeship, before the state exam, you can choose a school of journalism. But they are also very expensive and not entirely useful for those who want to work on a newspaper.

As a result, there are many young people who write for many years as unpaid workers and are deluded by the promise of the apprenticeship. Also the Italian laws are constantly changing,  a fact that encourages abuse and exploitation. This is another great contradiction in my country: a degree or an state exam, often useless and expensive, versus real skills. Now, there is some debate occuring but no real change. Journalism seems destined to remain the prerogative of a few.

Alessandra V. Massagrande is a historian living in Bologna.

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