Gorkana meets...Domenica Canchano, Managing Director of the Italian website covering immigration issues Cartadiroma.org and Contributor for the Italian regional newspaper Il Secolo XIX.
You work for a print publication (the Italian regional daily newspaper Il Secolo XIX) and a website (Cartadiroma.org). How does your job change with the different platforms? How do you prepare your news for your different audiences?
First of all, I split my readers into two groups: the first one comprises those who read ‘Génova Semanal’, Il Secolo XIX’s bilingual page, therefore I mainly prepare articles in Spanish for them; the other group is composed of those who read news from Genoa in the print edition or on the newspaper’s website. For the latter group, I keep myself informed about what is going on in the city, or better, in the districts that have been assigned to me. On Tuesday and Wednesday Il Secolo XIX publishes a supplement dedicated to local news. My contribution to the Carta di Roma website is more editorial. The website has a team of reporters who research and monitor information on the immigration sector.
Italian print publications are going through difficult times, especially at local and regional levels. Do you think online journalism will ultimately take over? How could print newspapers change this trend?
If you are not on the internet, you are out. This does not mean that the survival of one would exclude the other. Online journalism can coexist perfectly with print journalism, but to make this happen it is necessary to aim for audiovisual and narrative quality. The dynamics of information for these two forms of media are different, and this is the reason why it can work. As it happened with radio and television in past years.
Nowadays everybody can publish news through social media. Do you think social media platforms offer new opportunities for journalists or do you believe they hinder the sector, creating too many potentially unreliable sources?
It seems to me that they are a great resource. We cannot be hypocrites, many communications professionals glance at social media to keep track of what people are interested in. But a professional figure will always be needed. Social media platforms will probably find their place. At the moment they are a tool that we must learn how to use, not refusing to acknowledge the way they work.
Being originally from Peru, do you think there are any differences between journalism as a profession in Europe and in South America?
I cannot compare nor evaluate how my profession is carried out in my country of origin. I have collaborated with some publications many years ago, and as a reader I can only say that there are not many differences from Italy. Crime news sells well, and many newspapers have a bad habit of publishing instances of bloodshed on their covers, something that I find horrifying. Journalists in Peru are more fascinated by literature. This is the reason why at the moment there has been a boom in narrative chronicles and narrative journalism. There is a worrying situation concerning the print newspaper market though. In 2013 a dangerous commercial operation brought a radical change in the Peruvian newspaper editorial market, with one editorial group controlling 80% of the market, with only four big family or economic groups controlling a huge share of newspapers, radio stations and television channels. This is worrying.
You are the first non-European Director of an Italian publication (Cartadiroma.org). Did your nationality affect your career? What are your personal tips for non-European journalists wanting to build their career in Italy?
My nationality helped me in reporting news from my own perspective. The idea of becoming a journalist came to me while watching the news from my city, every time there was a report about immigration I wondered why it only told one side of the story. That was my point of view though, my colleagues probably did not think that behind the festive gatherings and celebrations – the only relevant topic, alongside crime news – there were reasons, purposes, tales, stories. For this reason, eleven years ago I made the decision to tell news from my point of view. My recommendation for my colleagues of a foreign nationality is to find a specialisation; when I started working as a journalist there was an extreme need for somebody from inside the news to relate the other side of immigration. Nowadays immigration is covered enough, but without developing other literary genres.
You support the campaign No Hate Speech on your website. Could you please tell us something more about it?
Sure, and I thank you for asking about it. I care about it very much, because Carta di Roma has become a promoter since September of a campaign against cyber racism, together with the European Journalists Federation and Articolo 21, with the support of the Italian Journalist Order, the Italian National Print Federation and Usigrai. The petition is online on change.org. We ask journalists, readers, listeners and news publications not to remain passive in front of hate speeches. Hate cannot be considered as an opinion, it is only a brutal falsification of reality and it contradicts not only the basic principles of civil coexistence, but also every scientific acquisition. For us journalists it is a matter of fulfilling the basic rule of our profession that requires us to relate the substantial truth of the facts. At the moment we have collected around 1,800 signatures. There is a lot of interest about this topic because many people realise that racist speeches become viral online and that their level has now become unbearable.
We live in a multicultural society, constantly changing and bringing different cultures together. How did journalism adapt to this new reality? What will publications have to do in order to follow this social change?
It adapted, when it did it, with great difficulty, however always late compared to the events that were occurring. Due to superficiality and sometimes to appeal to readers’ "guts instincts", we gave in and turned single cases of crime news into signals of a more general danger, instigating the equation stranger, or migrant, equals danger, social menace or menace to the safety of the community. What should be done is something easy, but difficult to realise: going to the roots of the problems, dismantling, with the aid of data, field research and documented reports, the fake “truths” ("we have been invaded", "these strangers (or migrants) are stealing our jobs" etc...), bringing to the surface a reality that is far richer and more complex than the one that is usually portrayed.
What is your relationship with PRs? What is the best way for them to contact you?
I am not a fan of social media platforms, so I am not present daily, but I can be found on them. I am otherwise always available at my email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Domenica Canchano was talking to Gorkana's Carlo Abbona