What happened to the questions? The twilight of Italian journalism.

letta

“To the moon”. Italian PM Enrico Letta
courtesy of Il Giorno

Every year around Christmas the Italian Prime Minister sits down with all the political correspondents for the traditional end-of-year press conference.

The PM in charge, Enrico Letta, faced yesterday twenty-three questions from Italian reporters who tried to sum up a peculiar year that started with an uncertain electoral result and ended with the final gasps of Berlusconism and the angered protests of the Pitchfork riots.

So we sat down on our sofa, grabbed a fresh made parmigiana and we tuned in to see what the Italian prime minister had to say about the state of the country after twelve, troubled months made of a tragic shipwreck in Lampedusa, the rise of Beppe Grillo’s quasi-fascist populism and the NSA scandal on which the Italian Government remained silent for a suspiciously long time.

“I’m proud, this is the year of a generational turn-over”

“Employment must be good employment”

“We’ll pass the electoral reform before the European elections”.

These are some of the answers Mr. Letta gave to the correspondents gathered yesterday at Montecitorio palace in Rome: answers that my grandma could recite with nonchalance while cooking Christmas dinner.

Mr. Letta was so vague in picturing the executive’s agenda and the plans he wants to put in place to save Italy from the economic disaster that I started wondering what the reporters were asking while waiting for the free buffet offered by the Government.

So we put aside the parmigiana and started listening more carefully.

“What is the relationship with Germany?”

“What is the relationship with Iran?”

“Is it better to have more deregulated jobs or less jobs that comply with the current law?”

“Will Italians pay more or less taxes in 2014?”.

And Mr. Letta was smiling and nodding. Just like a contestant on a special episode of “Who wants to be a millionaire” hosted by a herd of performing chimpanzee.

“Mr. Letta, do you prefer: a. more jobs; b. great jobs; c. less jobs; d. an ice cream?”

In the midst, there is my grandma and I, staring at the TV set and speechless in front of this kind of detachment from reality: there’s no need to be a professional football player to see that the team is losing the match in center field. There’s no need to be a professional journalist to see that no compelling questions were asked or even intended to be posed.

Journalists may have forgotten how to ask but there are normal families, workers, housewives or simply uneducated grandmas like mine that, in the secrecy of their homes, have a bunch of questions that have been waiting for an answer for the last twenty years and won’t let a prime minister walk away after his hazy and indeterminate monologue.

“Aren’t you a journalist?” my grandma asked me. “I’m not sure I’m going to live for that long but, next year, get me a pass to go to this annual press conference – I’d like to ask a couple of things”.

Next year, nana. And merry Christmas to you.

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