Gorkana meets...Federico Simonelli, Reporter for Citywire Italia.
Federico, you are part of Citywire’s editorial team in London. Can you tell us a bit about how your team works?
I am part of Citywire Italia’s editorial team, which is quite new since it was created in 2013 with Eugenio Montesano as Editor-in-Chief. After almost a year, during which he was taking care of the project almost independently even though the Italian team is part of the Global one, Igor Pakovic and I joined, with Citywire Italia’s team growing to three members. Citywire Italia’s offer includes a website and the magazine Consulenza Evoluta, a monthly publication addressing the Italian consultancy sector. Citywire publishes a series of magazine which is well known in England, weekly publications for advisors and managers and the monthly global magazine Citywire Selector (formerly Citywire Global), alongside Consulenza Evoluta, dedicated to asset management with a special focus on the financial advisory and saving and the financial formation sectors, which represent our audience. The whole Citywire editorial team works in the same newsroom, and we are part of the Citywire Global brand, the English website with which we collaborate very often. We write for the Italian website, but if our news is relevant for the global section we translate it into English and vice versa, we take and exchange information, and we work with other colleagues in a team dynamic, even though we still maintain our specific competences. We mainly cover the Italian market from London.
What is your previous experience as a journalist in Italy? Do you think there are differences between being a journalist in Italy and in the UK?
Yes, there are differences between being a journalist in Italy and in the UK, and not only from a regulatory and bureaucratic point of view. Before answering, though, let me say something about my experience as a journalist in Italy. I have had a lot of experience as a radio journalist, from when I was working at Radio Popolare di Milano, and as a freelance journalist for various newspapers, mainly Il Secolo XIX. I had previously worked as a freelance journalist for quite a long time for Il Fatto Quotidiano, as well as MF - Milano Finanza, and I had an internship at Il Sole 24 Ore, where I wrote some articles. I had many different experiences, even though the two longest in my career were with Il Secolo XIX’s economic section, for which I covered macro-economy and especially finance and shipping, which is Il Secolo XIX’s main focus, and Radio Popolare, where I was a reporter focusing on macro-economy. During this time I followed mainly Greece, where I often went as a correspondent. I do not have a strictly financial background. After that I arrived at Citywire, partly by coincidence, and partly because I wanted to… and it is a great workplace. Italian journalism differs from English journalism in terms of news construction. It depends on what kind of media you are writing for, but clearly British journalism has a drier writing style. The approach to the news should be more or less the same, since it is based on information accuracy and probity. Therefore, if it is properly done, journalism does not change whether it is carried out in Italy or in England. What changes is context.
Are there any differences in the way you prepare an article for an Italian and for a British audience?
Yes, and they often involve sentence construction, even though I do not write in English as often as I write in Italian. British news structure has the news at the beginning, and does not feature what in Italian is called “attack”, a sentence that introduces the news. This element does not exist in British journalism, where you give the news, you say who did what, what the principal elements are, the five Ws, and after that you can include some reasoning. The news pieces we produce for the English market are always very objective, containing all the essential information without embellishing the facts. It is the same for our Italian news, even though I change my style when I write for my Italian audience. If we analyse in detail what we do in our global and in our Italian sections then there are many differences, since we have different audiences and therefore the kind of news we produce is different.
You now work for an online publication, after having been a contributor for different print newspapers. Do you think online journalism will eventually replace print newspapers? What could print publications do in order to survive?
I do not think that online journalism will replace print newspapers, but I believe that online journalism will take more space from print newspapers, partly due to its characteristics as a medium, partly due to technological innovations, partly for its lower cost, since online journalism does not have print expenses, and partly because people tend to read print newspapers less and less. Having said so, I think that a slightly reduced number of print newspapers will probably still be published, maybe those aimed at people seeking information about a specific sector. Print newspapers as an object are not the main information channel anymore, even though it can still occur with big newspapers’ websites, such as The Guardian, The Times or The New York Times, or La Repubblica or Corriere della Sera in Italy. Who buys a newspaper? Someone who wants a deeper analysis… and I believe this is the path to follow for print journalism. It does not have to offer tailor made news but analysis and in depth articles, even covering niche subjects, since I do not rule out the chance of new publications being launched if they cover, for instance, finance in a very specific way, making them able to coexist with online journalism.
The global economy is trying to recover after a deep crisis that affected most Western countries. How did you experience this situation as a business journalist?
I studied Journalism in Italy and became a professional journalist in 2009, and since that moment, two years after Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy and the beginning of the deeper crisis, I started following the crisis at a macro-economic level. As I was saying, I have always covered Greece, following the first bailout in 2010, the technical governments, etc. Since 2011 Greece has reflected the development of the global economic crisis, from a peripheral position but always present. I used to go two or three times a year to Greece as a correspondent, where I could live the crisis from a different perspective, seeing every time how the situation I had left three/four months earlier had developed, and how it reflected what was going on at a global level. When it seemed like the economy was recovering in 2012-2013, for instance, there was a certain kind of attitude regarding what politics to implement in Greece, but when economic data started showing a different situation, coming back after four months I noticed a different approach, which brought back the introduction of further cuts. In my opinion, Greece is the litmus test of global crisis. The fact that the crisis is not over is probably demonstrated by the fact that Greece is still in a difficult situation.
Is there a story related to the crisis that moved you particularly, or that you found particularly interesting or curious?
I have been focusing on finance and asset management lately, so I would like to talk about something different, a story that moved me not for its positivity, but for its simplicity. It is a business story, of an Italian company called Last Minute Market, created as a spinoff of the University of Bologna. It was promoted by Andrea Segrè, a professor at the University of Bologna specialised in the recovery of food resources and waste. The University of Bologna created the company a long time before the crisis started, aiming to network all associations that fight against food waste. For instance, they closed a deal with supermarkets regarding their leftovers, so that those resources could go to people who needed them. Which are not, oddly enough, citizens or food centres, but companies who in turn reutilise them, generating growth through this economy of scale. Now the company has 40-50 employees, employs researchers from the University, and is a kind of start-up that has been developing during the crisis. There has not been a food crisis in Italy, but I think that there was a moment when many people started thinking that it was necessary to do something about food waste, which is precisely what they have been doing throughout all these years. I believe it is an edifying story from an economic point of view.
Do you think journalists and specialised publications can play an active role in economic recovery? How?
They can play an active role in economic recovery since they contribute to the economic development, since they are part of a dynamic industry, journalism, and produce information, which is vital for economic development. There is therefore a double front in my opinion. As demonstrated by the launch of new websites or newspapers, journalists and publishers are part of a sector that can create employment. In London for example, contrary to Italy where the publishing industry is still in crisis, the editorial sector is very dynamic, it creates employment, it creates development… so yes, my answer is yes, journalists and publications can have an active role in economic recovery.
Do you use social media platforms? Do you think they are a useful tool for journalists?
I use them for work, a lot, and I think they are a very useful tool for journalists to retrieve information. I personally use Twitter more than Facebook, and Twitter in my opinion has in some way replaced the role of the agencies. It is a scroll where you can select your sources by following them, evaluating which ones are reliable and which ones are not. Twitter for me is not a way of keeping in touch with people and colleagues, but a way to have a continuous news flow. Other social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, are important too, since they are often a source of news. When a manager changes jobs and starts working for a competitor, if they update their LinkedIn profile but the company has not yet issued a press release, there is a story there for me.
What is the best way for PRs to contact you?
I would say that the best way to contact me is still through emails. I always read my emails even though there are many. Sometimes I might miss one of them but I always check my inbox, and if a message has an interesting subject line that catches my attention I open it. I believe that a good subject line and two to three good lines of introduction to the press release or the initiative are fundamental. Then, if the topic is interesting and I receive a phone call after a few days if I did not reply, it is perfectly fine by me. Sometimes PRs call you 40 times, and that is a bit more… not annoying, exactly, but it is a bit of a nuisance. I would say emails are still the best contact method.
Last but not least: what do you miss the most from Italy?
Federico Simonelli was talking to Gorkana's Carlo Abbona