In the second installment of a new series of articles to get to better know journalists and journalism around the world, Worldcrunch spoke to Anna Masera, public editor of top Italian daily La Stampa, about the differences between Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi, foreign media's focus on the pope and engaging with citizens via social media.
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What was your most unforgettable experience in journalism?
My first story in New York City at the Columbia University Journalism School in 1984. The story was on thalassemia told through a young Italian-American patient dying in the hospital. It was unforgettable both because it was my first piece, in which I practiced the "show, don't tell" golden rule of journalism, and because it was a very moving first experience to write about suffering.
Is there something you wish foreigners knew about your country?
I wish people were educated about Italy, just as Italians should be educated about other countries. I guess I wish people didn't use stereotypes to identify Italians. Italians are very self-critical and ironic. We're not proud as a nation and not very patriotic except for soccer. But, then again, lately there is a new nationalistic streak due to the economic crisis which fosters fear.
Does this nationalistic streak affect how you view your own country now?
Yes, I don't sympathize. But I am also very sad for Italy's youth, who are leaving the country in search of job opportunities; and for freelancers, many middle-aged people forced to accept very bad economic conditions, and are burdened by Italy's bureaucracy. It's a real plague that hampers innovation.
Is there something that's overlooked in foreign coverage of Italy, especially nowadays considering how much money is being cut from news budgets?
Foreign media in Italy cover mostly the Pope and cliché stories about the mafia, food and tourism. Italy has a lot more to it than that. Like all countries, it deserves more nuanced coverage about its society, economics, politics and culture; but I understand the cuts due to the overall crisis.
Does Trump's handling of the press remind you of Silvio Berlusconi?
Trump seems a lot worse.
How so? Are there ways in which you find them comparable?
Yes, of course: They're both rich, sexist, aging sex-maniacs, populist, ignorant, TV-oriented, corrupt, friends of Putin. But Berlusconi probably never came across as terrible as Trump because, in the world political scenario, he is less powerful. And Italy is Catholic, so the underlying values of the countries are so different. We oppose war by Constitution and ban the death penalty, and we don't carry guns like Americans in the Wild West. And Berlusconi — as opposed to Trump — did manage to create a successful business and jobs, and he got credit for that.
How is La Stampa adapting to the 21st century?
La Stampa is striving to stay relevant in the information society by being original in its coverage, by being on all platforms with suitable content and by trying to be transparent and trustworthy and true to its identity and readership.
Anna Masera at State of The Net conference in 2014
How is the media in Italy different from other countries?
Italian media are very television-driven, but there is a lot of new experimenting going on everywhere. It's an exciting time to innovate and there is a lot of room for improvement.
How has working in social media at La Stampa changed your views of journalism and reporting?
I was the first social media editor in Italy! It made me very interactive with the public, very willing to offer a public service, answer requests, correct errors, explain our work and crowd-source information.
What was it like starting a position that you were, essentially, pioneering?
Not easy. The establishment doesn't like novelties, but it was exciting and a challenge that keeps me very much engaged and passionate, like in a start-up.
You took a temporary leave from your job at La Stampa to work communications for the Italian parliament. Why did you try that end of the communications business, and what was it like transition back to working at La Stampa?
I was head of communications and of the press office of the Lower House of Parliament in Rome for two years, called on to digitalize and socialize — literally, I opened the social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and others. It was a good civic service experience. I learned a lot, and being an outsider from the political realm, I think I brought some innovation that was deeply needed like making communication more transparent and more of service to the public and all citizens who want information from that public institution. But I always knew that I wanted to go back to journalism.
What's your favorite social media platform?
Twitter. It's made for journalism.
Do you have a favorite word or phrase in Italian?
What's your favorite Italian food and/or drink?
Spaghetti al dente and red wine.
What person from your country do you admire the most (living or dead)?
Leonardo da Vinci.
What are you reading right now?
I read more than one book at the same time. I am reading Enough Said: What's Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics? by Mark Thompson, president and CEO of the New York Times; and also Non Aspettarmi Vivo ("Don't Wait for Me Alive") by Anna Migotto and Stefania Miretti, a documented story about the young jihadists behind recent terrorist events. But I also like lighter stuff, like I have been reading all of Don Winslow"s novels.
If you were a character in a book, who would you be and why?
When I was a girl I loved Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind because she was so passionate and never gave up.
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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