Italian journalism, much maligned by this monkey, has in fact revealed itself to be at the front of the pack pioneering a new form of journalism, one that has quickly come to terms with the changing nature of news, recounting events through the prism of ‘hyper-reality’ and ‘super-fiction’ (discussed further by Mark Lawson).
An example – the notorious murder of an English student in Perugia. The journalists at RAI 1 don’t put a foot wrong when developing this ‘story’. First we’re given the lurid details, and a number of hypotheses (most conveniently centring around an African bar owner – subsequently to be released). Google, myspace and facebook are all searched for photos, quotes and comments. Next comes the vital step of character development. In the first day or two of the ‘story’ the victim and suspects are all refered to by name and surname. As the ‘story’ develops the surnames gradually dissapear. This helps the ‘audience’ invest in the narrative – as the jargon goes. Then we can have supplementary talk shows where everyone can chime in with their opinion as to whether or not Foxy Knoxy did it, or was it the butler in the green room?
Sociologists, structuralists, and inveterate post-modernists can get to grips with the Perugia case to tell us about the changing nature of reality – how the youth of today ‘construct’ themselves in a society increasingly based on the spectacle.
There’s a more mundane argument to be followed though. The evening news runs for 30 minutes, and choices have to be made as to what to include and exclude. The development of the Perugia case has been done as skilfully as the best of television drama, outlining the characters, and motives with an eye for detail that would make any novelist proud. That takes serious time, though. Something has to be dropped as a result.
In particular, two ongoing cases have recieved negligable coverage – both involve judicial investigations into political corruption. Both have seen their investigating magistrates transferred from the case after debatable disciplinary hearings.
In the first case, Luigi De Magistris was transfered from the ‘Why Not’ case after spending four years investigating abuse of European funds and illegal party funding in Calabria. Amongst those under investigation by De Magistris was Justice minister Clemente Mastella. De Magistris was transfered from the case, after but officialy not as a result of a request from Mastella.
In the second case, Clementina Forleo was taken off the case investigating political involvment in Unipol banking scandal. Forleo, in interviews with the press refered to pressure exerted on the CSM (the governing body of the magistrature) to open a disciplinary hearing against her in order to delegitimate her case – a case that could be embarassing to the two dominant parties in Italian politics Ds and Forza Italia (Ds currently in government, while Forza Italia is Berlusconi’s party). The CSM promptly opened a disciplinary hearing against Forleo for her remarks about political pressure, and the same body has now ruled that no political pressure was exerted on them to open a case against Forleo – hence she is duly disciplined and removed from the case.
In the evening news there’s no investigation as to whether the disciplinary charges against these two magistrates are valid; no background information about who has made the decisions (and whether they have party-political affiliations, for example); no background information about the investigations which have effectively been hampered as a result.
The narrative skills so ably demonstrated by the t.v news journalists in the Peruggia case (and similar cases – there’s at least one a month) – that went to the level of revealing that Foxy Knoxy and her Italian boyfriend Rafaele had bought sexy underwear two days after the murder! – would be well employed in investigating the De Magistris and Forleo cases, after all political corruption is something that affects millions of people in this country directly.
But in this brave new world of news reporting as drama the characters involved are presumably not interesting enough, and there’s a distinct lack of sex or bloodshed.