Tag Archives: Italy

On being a beggar and becoming a magician


I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. I knew I wanted to write something about the life of a freelancer, and also about my personal experience as an expat.

Almost a year has passed from when I first landed in my new home to start a new life and I felt ready to sum things up. Every day I forget another bit of what it felt like to live in a country without hope and to be part of a disrupted industry. Still, it’s good to shed new light on old memories. Asking questions, even to myself, and trying to understand difficult dynamics is part of my job.

So, I was planning a reflection on my experience as Italian freelancer when Italy anticipated me. The national media community was shocked by a letter written by the war reporter Francesca Borri, appeared on the Columbia Journalism Review. In the opinion piece she denounced the problem of Italian media, speaking out over the economic crisis in the field that’s endangering the quality of national journalism.

Borri has been criticised for her auto celebrative tone, but after the first appearance of her contribution the debate on the condition of freelancers in Italy had sparked. By coincidence, in the same period I gave an interview to the blog “Io torno se” [I’ll come back if…], telling about my experience and how my life has improved from the personal and professional point of view. I didn’t mean to make it come across as a lousy fairy tale, but there I was.

Being very current, my interview got a lot of traffic, and I received a number of messages on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin. I was honestly surprised by how people perceived my experience as a sort of upside down Italian dream. That is clearly a misinterpretation of my story, nonetheless I was deeply touched.

Many shared their personal stories with me, sometimes they even asked for advice. This made me think about my life in Italy, how hopeless I was. In a way I would have liked to make very clear that I didn’t just take a header. I had to plan, to be very rational and build a better, but reasonable vision of my future.

Dreams are good, but are nothing without gumption. Moreover, dreams are personal and it is really not for me to teach people what should they look like. As a 29 year old me, after a year in the UK and a master in Science Journalism, I would be more interested in speculating about strategies and processes instead of knowing everything about a particular ‘case study’.

But then I thought about the 28 year old me, in my previous life, and realised that in Italy, especially if you are a journalist, you want to dream because dreams are all you’ve got. There’s no point in working on strategies, in having an entrepreneurial attitude, in planning a career if as a freelancer you get from 15 to 50 euros a story (bloody hell! – said my teacher).

I now would prefer to focus on what I have learnt and not on my lame tale, but I have to be honest: it was a very personal story, a compelling case study, that took the 28 years old me away.

Being a freelance journalist here is a good life. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t manage to find a better job, but that you are so good that your editor chooses you every day. Every single piece of journalism you will deliver will be of good quality – and will be well paid.

In Italy, the label “freelance” is just an euphemism for “broke flex worker”. Nobody is proud to be a freelance. For me, it’s a dream job. With a couple of relevant exceptions, I wouldn’t trade it for the security of an office position.

If I survived Italy, I can not only survive, but enjoy an extremely flexible life here.

Being a freelancer is a great opportunity to improve your skills and stay updated, it’s a demanding job but you are free to choose your favourite stories and report on them in the way that suits you best.

While in Italy I felt like a beggar, here I feel a bit like a magician, my work is full of surprises and my task is – also – to be surprising.

Trust the UK!

The Freedom of Information Act

is an Act of Parliament of 
the Parliament of the United Kingdom 
that creates a public "right of access" to information 
held by public authorities.

For those who don’t know how it works, like me when I heard of it for the first time, it is based on a simple principle of trust and transparency. You ask, the Government responds.

The idea is that clear, but the procedure can be tricky. There are a number of bureaucratic obstacles, and often you will see your request rejected because of national security, or because the text you have sent was inaccurate or convolute.

So, hypotetically, the public authority could dodge the regulation without serious consequences. As a journalist (or particularly stubborn citizen) you can appeal until trial, but most people would probably give up well before.

But, slightly surprisingly for the Italian spectator, accustomed to look at the public administration as a hurdle, this doesn’t happen so often. Instead, the public officer is usually a person who really believes in what he does and tries to help you the most.

Here lays the beauty of this system, which is based upon mutual trust between citizens and public institutions.

The law and the regulations are in place, but they can work only thanks to adminstration’s honesty and people’s trust.

Sometimes I wonder if such an agreement could be possible in Italy. I doubt it; and not even because of bad faith, but above all because the public administration is deeply disorganized.

However, in Italy there is an association which claims the adoption of Freedom of Information Act. And the more I dig into this topic, the more I discover we have a number of different regulations supporting transparency and open data in the country.

I wouldn’t have thought so, given Italy has one of the worst situations in the world in terms of press freedom.

However, it’s good to know that some regulation designed for the common good does actually exist also in my troubled country.