My work in English

Now I write for Politico Europe and I’ll post here my articles. But first you can find here below my last column for The National:

How Milan’s Expo will get the message to the people

Cnbc asked me for an interview on the Italian outlook after the departure of Giorgio Napolitano as president of the Republic, here is the video:

A potential power shift in Italy?

As I mentioned before joining Politico I used to write a monthly column on the build-up to Milan’s Expo 2015 for The National, the Abu Dhabi newspaper. Dubai is the next host of the World Exposition for the 2020 edition. You can find my columns here:

Keeping visitors safe adds to the cost of Milan Expo 

Real estate price push for Expo host cities

Milan is getting a sinking feeling with Expo population explosion

Delays fears haunt Milan Expo 2015

I’ve also started covering other issues for The National.  And since Rome is the only capital of two states, I thought that the huge success of Pope Francis, especially in terms of popularity and tourism, could be interesting also for readers in the United Arab Emirates (the Uae’s carrier, Etihad, has now a 49% stake in Alitalia). Here’s my feature:

Vatican City plays Italian hero

Previously much of my work in English was in broadcasting for Cnbc and in print for Newsweek, before the Washington Post group decided to sell it. Now the magazine has a new owner who, in many cases, for some unknown reason, has changed the byline using a generic “Newsweek Staff” instead of my name and the names of the other colleagues who worked with me. So here there’s a selection of my articles. In the two cases here below the byline is still correct:

Latest Sex Scandal Isn’t Berlusconi’s Only Problem

‘Bunga-Bunga’ Scandal Threatens Berlusconi

In many other cases  the byline has changed, so I publish pictures of the print edition to show the right attribution.

Obviously Berlusconi’s days provided us with great stories and great headlines. Usually Italian politics is byzantine and florentine, and readers around the world are not so keen to follow it.  Here it is our cover on the “Veltrusconi” when Berlusconi was running against former Rome major Walter Veltroni and many analysts were already talking about a “Große Koalition” between the two opponents. Berlusconi won also these elections with a landslide victory and the deal between the two sides had still to wait for a few more years to come.

 

IMG_4630

In this occasion I had to interview him and then, along with my great boss Chris Dickey and with Barbie Nadeau (who followed Veltroni) we wrote the main article.

Here it’s my interview,  I didn’t like the title and the outcome, but here it is.

Berlusconi: The Businessman Prime Minister

 

IMG_4628

After he won the elections I wrote that after his first 100 days back in office he seemed tackling some issue with a decisive grip but that anyway “cleaning up trash and harassing immigrants won’t be enough”. The title in the print edition, “Miracle in 100 days”, drove mad an important old leftwing commentator, Furio Colombo, who said that I was defending Berlusconi. He misspelt my name and so, when he looked up in Google, reached the amusing conclusion that I din’t exist.  Here it’s the link to my article (the online version has a different title and also in this case the byline is now a generic “Newsweek staff”):

How Silvio Berlusconi Reined in Italy (or Miracle in 100 days)

Here it’s a picture of Colombo’s column on the front page of l’Unità, the historical newspaper of the former communist party, where he claims that I don’t exist.

photo 2

 

My article was also translated in Italian by a highly respected magazine (L’Internazionale). It helped showing that I’m alive and kicking but especially that I never wrote what he claimed:

photo 1

It was fun, Dagospia, a very popular Italian website, splashed the story on the front page:

IMG_0032

 

Anyway, just to be clear, when enough was enough we reiterated our criticism and asked Berlusconi to leave:

photo 3 (1)

The article was written by my big boss, Chris Dickey, and me and Barbie did the reporting

photo 4 photo 5

We often worked in team and it was great. Because of my economic background I tended to focus on this aspect of the coverage. And sometimes our stories ended up on the cover, like in this case:

IMG_4629 photo napoli trash

In other instances I worked all alone. Like in the case of this article on increasing economic and financial links between the Italian and the Spanish economy written at the time of the deals between Enel and Endesa and Telecom and Telefonica.  I argued that “Europe has its historic Franco-German political and economic alliance. Now it also has what might be called the Palm Economy. Spain and Italy, already social and political cousins with strong economic links and a similar business culture, are thinking bigger”.

Here is the link:

The Palm economy

But since also in this case the byline was changed with the generic one, to have the evidence that I wrote it please click here

At the end Newsweek asked me to explore the way to set up an Italian online edition. I started working on it along with high tech journalism guru Luca De Biase but by the time we finalized our work the magazine was sold. Part of the ideas behind this Italian version ended up in Linkiesta.it, the online newspaper I set up with Jacopo Tondelli (who was a great editor while I was the editor in chief) and that was praised by the Financial Times as a changing force in Italy.

 

 I believe that’s enough. As for my more recent stories, those written for Italian newspapers, here are some abstracts in English:

 

– ABSTRACT 1

Published on Pagina99 January 25th 2014 (click here for the Italian version)

TWITTER & CO, WHEN SUCCESS HAPPENS BY CHANCE IN THE SILICON VALLEY

There are several versions of the story of Twitter, and the only thing we know for sure is that the micro-blogging platform was born for a different scope than the current one: a common destiny for a number of products of the digital era, which reached their success becoming something different from their starting concept. In their story, someone was bold enough to change.

Groupon founder wanted to create a leading website for political activism: he ended up with a crowfunding platform where the ‘coupon business’ we supposed to be a collateral project. PayPal was born thanks to the efforts of two ‘dreamers’ who wanted to create a universal currency free from governmental controls. Even Flickr was originally conceived as an accessory service for a gaming website (which did not obtain the expected success, unlike its photo sharing tool).

At the beginning, Twitter was supposed to be Odeo, a podcasting platform. Then Apple added podcast to iTunes and Odeo risked to end up in the paradise of irrelevance. However, it was decided to turn it into a platform for written messages: notwithstanding the initial scepticism, we all know how the story ended.

In the Silicon Valley, a ‘pivotal’ feature is the ability to recognise whether a project has taken a wrong path. And it’s quite a complicated stuff. It means that once you have an idea, you are supposed to apply the ‘criterion of falsifiability’ – a philosophic principle according to which a theory is genuinely scientific only if it possible in principle to establish that it is false. Yet, it is quite different to apply it to a scientific theory, and to apply it to a start-up company, where several people are involved, with their investiments in the company (emotionally soaking too).

However, several success case of the Silicon Valley tell the same story: there is no determinism in technology, while there’s often a lot of serendipity. It is necessary to be able to stop for a while, in order to understand whether we took the wrong way – and change direction if needed.

 

 

– ABSTRACT 2

Published January 2nd 2013 on Linkiesta (click here for the Italian version)

US AND EUROPE TOGETHER TO RESTORE DEMOCRACY

While the hopes for an economic recovery for the following years lay on the TTIP, between the US and Europe, while Asia tries to obtain another agreement (the Trans-Parnership) which  should involve the US, China and Mexico, as well as Japan and Korea, the question is still the same on both sides of the ocean: how would it be possible to rise politics up to the level of the challenges of this period? Right now, when markets and creditors on one hand, and populism and rage on the other, restrict its range for democratic action?

This is why the partnership between the US and Europe, if it is ever going to be signed, could help in reinforcing not only our economies but also our fortunes. Which are inevitably more and more common – at least in the hope of avoiding to become impenetrable to any wisdom.

Because politics looks increasingly like the fishes in St. Anthony’s sermon, amazingly turned into music by Gustav Mahler, which run to listen to the wise Saint, but then go away, happy to behave as they’ve always done, in spite of his virtue. If politics deals with these problems – a better economic and political management in a moment when the Pax americana is dying – as those fishes dealt with the Saint’s words, if it is not able to answer these crucial questions through technology and global governance, then this beginning of the century really risks to bring bad, bad news. Then, pessimist would just be the optimist’s accusation to the realist.

– ABSTRACT 3

Published on Pagina 99 January 31 2014 (click here for the Italian version)

IN FAVOUR OF WORK, AGAINST RENTSEEKERS, WHY A NEW NEWSPAPER IS BORN

The editorial line of a newspaper that comes into the world in Italy in 2014 cannot leave the concept of fight against rent seeking out of the conversation: it will be one of the main themes of our newspaper, yet it is a concern not only for Italy. Liberalism triumphed at the end of last century, but paradoxically created an economic model mainly based on rent seeking, which is now its nemesis. From Moscow, first in the world in the number of billionaires (78) according to Forbes, to Beijing, where the net average wealth of the 60 richest members of the National Assembly ($1.4 billions) defeats the one of the 11 wealthiest members of the Congress ($323 millions). Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, owes most of its power to the almost-monopolistic situation of TLCs in which its Telmex operates.

Italy, after twenty years of stagnation, sees its political stability threatened by the gap between the productive part of its population – which hasn’t voted during the last elections, or gave a ‘protest’ vote – and the part which lives off a rent. The ‘productive part’ category now includes a growing number of workers who have been forced to abandon a regular work to start an autonomous job: this is a process that cannot be ignored by the press, because it creates a series of new subjects and interactions with the institutions, hence leading to political changes. We have radical ideas and tones, but not radical ideology: we must insist on redistribution, against plutocracy – the fight against sperequations has to be led with fiscal policies and by a liberalisation process to access knowledge. It has to shed light on the management of economic public and private groups, on their consequences on money savers, on the ability of authorities to monitor effectively.

Another important fight we have to support is the one for independence – not only for journalists, but also for magistrates, auditors, scientists, for experts in any field. A society can grow only if it is able to turn against dishonesty, if it allows people to tell the truth without being punished, if information can flow freely.

It is important to support policies, against lobbies.

A newspaper worthy its name has to carefully monitor the world of lobbyists, who have gained a remarkable importance due to the crisis of parties: who they are, how do they work, how much of their work goes against public interests. This has to be followed by a work aimed at ignoring politics gossip and at focusing on policies, following the discussion where it comes from – in Strasbourg and Brussels, where originates 60 percent of the laws then approved in Rome. Everything matched with a focus on ‘politics’, debates, on the experimentation of new journalism models and technologies, on immaterial and diffused powers, on the need of new social contracts.

 

– ABSTRACT 4

Published on Linkiesta January 18th 2014 (click here for the Italian version)

THE CONCORDIA CASE, WHY IN ITALY IS MORE DIFFICULT TO TELL THE BOSS HE’S WRONG

Francesco Schettino was the Captain of the Costa Concordia, wrecked in January 2012 in front of the Giglio Island because of a wrong operation done while he was in command: the so-called “bow”, which means a passage of the ship very close to the mainland. After the tragedy, which caused 32 deaths, Mr. Schettino has even abandoned the ship, and his gesture caused a ferocious debate in Italy about his suitability to the role he had. But no one around him had the courage to tell him that what he was doing was wrong despite the degree of danger being absolutely clear.

Yet, the problem is far wider, and it concerns a cultural element: some studies, reported by Malcom Gladwell in Outliers, show that the most part of air accidents happen when the captain is holding the cloche because it is too complicated for the second pilot to tell the boss he is wrong. The phenomenon was studied by the Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede, who created the “Power Distance Index” which measures the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally in several countries. The higher the index, the more vertical is the relationship of people with their boss, the less right of criticism they have. The higher the index, the more is difficult is to criticize the bosses.

This is what happens in Malesia, with the highest score in the world (104), while China, Saudi Arabia and Iran all score 80. In Western Europe, the worst score belongs to France, 68 points, while Italy is at 50 (fifth highest score of the area). USA score 49, and UK 35, while the lowest score is recorded in Scandinavian Countries (Denmark is at 18), in Israel (13) and Austria (11). For sure we cannot say it is all about the Index. However, in Italy there certainly is a problem of ‘power distance’: our politics has been hostage of unsuitable leaders, surrounded by weak subordinates unable to speak out, far too long. The hope is that Schettino’s event could be seen as warning for all those power men who mortify their subordinates with an authority which, without reliability, is void and for subordinates to start rebelling when the boss is utterly wrong.

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