Minzolini, The Halved Editor
Augusto Minzolini is the editor of the news on the Italian channel RAI 1,the principal channel on Italian TV. Hence, the principal TV news programme. TG1 is what families always watch during dinner: back home after a hard day at work, they can finally relax and enjoy a good home-made meal, while being informed on what happens in the world. It is the main channel of TV information in Italy, at least in terms of audience size.
Minzolini was elected for this role on 20th May 2009, after a career in journalism and cinema. The latter reveals he is at ease when appearing on the TV screen: as we will see, that has turned out to be the key quality in his role as editor. Regarding the former, Minzolini is famous for having introduced a new journalistic style, allegedly labelled ‘minzolinismo’ .
Minzolinismo relies on “collecting ‘informal’ statements from politicians without checking over their validity”. One may be slightly reluctant to define this ‘a journalistic style’: it would be a bit like introducing a style of cooking that relies on throwing random stuff in a pot, and boiling it for a certain amount of time, then serving it into leather shoes.
Anyway, one should not ask too many questions. Furthermore, this may well be a case of a genius, one who revolutionizes an entrenched tradition by violating the accepted rules. Actually, it must be so: otherwise, why would they elect him director of the main TV News programme?
This is Augusto Minzolini:
Once he became editor of TG1, he exported his minzolinistic approch also to the world of editing. As applied to TV journalism, minzolinism is characterised by the use of direct-to-camera editorials. What happens is that at some point during the TV news, the flashy head of Minzolini appears on the screen and takes over. For about 2-3 minutes, the director expresses his thoughts about one the central issues in the Italian news. This raises a couple of questions: 1) How can his head be so flashy? What is it made of? 2) Why the editorial? Why does the director of the public news channel need to step in and tell the audience what he thinks the right answer is?
Rather, it seems appropriate for him to remain in the background, to define the editorial line –for sure- yet not acting himself as a journalist. He can certainly express his views, but he may well do that on other occasions than on the news he directs. News programmes are to report facts, not to tell people how to understand the facts. Hence, here is Mizolini’s innovative contribution: minzolinismo means that the deus ex machina can also appear and talk.
On the day he took office at the TG1, Minzolini made his first appearance on the screen to explain his manifesto. His goal -he stated- would have been ‘to deal with the real life of the people’, and ‘to make the audience not just an audience, but also a co-editor’. Rightly so. Unfortunately, he then pushed the ‘real life of the people’ line too far, by claimed that the accusations against the Italian PM, that so much spice gave to our last summer, were pathetic. This immediately posed problems to the minzolinic directing style.
In fact, as it happens to all the geniuses, the world was not ready yet to receive minzolinismo. So a few days later, the TG1 was widely criticised for not reporting anything at all regarding the aforementioned scandals: the news were all about football, sun, and holidays. Minzolini gave his explanation, in one of his direct-to-camera editorials, by confirming that what he intended to do was to talk about what really is important, not the stupid gossip of journalists that enjoy throwing mud at respectable people.
In October, a huge protest took place in Rome in defence of press freedom, after Governamental decisions against some overly-critical journalists. During TG1, an even flashier Minzolini appeared on the screen, to make it clear that he found that protest ‘incomprehensible’, and that Italy enjoyed the highest level of freedom of expression. The fact that he was expressing himself freely on TV was the sign of this.
Nevertheless, criticisms of his style increased. Bu so did also the frequency with which he flashily defended his mission. On 11th December, during a trial, the mafia turncoat Gaspare Spatuzza mentioned alleged connections between the Mafia and the actual Government. On the same day, Minzolini appeared on the news (again, the public news), just to clarify that Spatuzza’s claims were “bullshit which contributed to damaging the image of Italy”.
A few days later, on the 14th, Berlusconi was hit in the face by an object thrown at him by a protester. Minzolini commented, in one of his stylish editorials, that criticisms of the PM had created a ‘climate of hatred that is leading to civil war.’ It was time to stop, once and for all, to criticise the PM. Enjoy your meal.
The new year did not bring better luck to Minzolini’s attempt to innovate the art of directing the news. A big polemic followed the decision of Milan’s mayor, LetiziaMoratti, to entitle a street to Bettino Craxi, as part of a broader attempt to rehabilitate the memory of one of the most corrupted politicians of the 80-90s. Minzolini then performed again. In one of his editorials, he defined Craxi “a great statesman”. According to Minzo, Craxi had been turned into the scapegoat of a system that had resisted after the Cold War. He had been a great statesman, and it was now time to look at him “with history’s eyes”. Unfortunately, once again the world was not ready for this, and Minzolini was accused of serving the PM’s desire to rehabilitate the image of a politician with whom he had shared so much. This is Bettino Craxi in an old picture (on the right, with a friend):
The story continues. In his effort to tell the audience/co-editor about the Government’s performance, the editor of the public news directed his team to show how well things are going in L’Aquila, the city in central Italy struck by a powerful earthquake in April 2009. The PM had made it clear from the beginning that the Government would have made every effort to help the population of L’Aquila: together with the Head of the Civil Protection, Guido Bertolaso, he set out to rebuild central Italy. Thus, the TG1 regularly showed reports of happy people, new houses, politicians’ promising/accomplishing things, order returning, etc.
Sadly, that did not seem to have captured entirely what is happening in L’Aquila. When, later, a troupe of TG1 went to L’Aquila again, an angry mob attacked them and sent them away, yelling “Go away, scondinzolini!” The term ‘scodinzolini’ seems to be a mixture of the aforementioned ‘minzolini’, and of the verb ‘scodinzolare’, wagging. Look where the attempt to make his audience also co-editor took him: the angry mob had clearly misunderstood Minzo’s attempt to report on ‘what people really care about’, for him wagging the tail at the PM.
There have been many more episodes, in which Minzolini has employed his style towards a precise and efficient News service. Even more, though, has been the ostracism he’s had to face from those who are against his pioneering approach. In fact, a few days ago, phone tappings have been revealed in which, allegedly, the Italian PM calls Minzolini to tell him what he has to say in the TG1. It is alleged that in these phone calls, the PM calls Minzolini “direttorissimo” (“super-editor”).
Faithful to his style, Minzolini reacted to this attack to his style yesterday, during the news on the public channel, claiming “they (who?) want to shut my mouth. They want a ‘halved editor. But I will not be a halved-editor”.
However, his head looked vaguely less flashy.