< Get Back On The Boat

Transcript

Friday, January 20, 2012

BOB GARFIELD:

The wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Tuscany has been a tragic sensation of almost mythic proportions. Eleven people have died and twenty-one remain missing. The villain of the story so far has been the ship's captain who steered the Costa into the rocks and then ungallantly fled. Audio has emerged of the captain being scolded by a Coast Guard officer and ordered to return to the ship.

[CLIP]:

FEMALE CORRESPONDENT:

When the captain complained it was dark, and he couldn't see, the Coast Guard commander let loose with a furious tirade.

[COAST GUARD COMMANDER/TIRADE IN ITALIAN]

It's dark and you wanna go home? Get on the prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now!

[END CLIP]

BOB GARFIELD:

After the accident, a state-run television news channel broadcast images of the shaking, quaking interior of a luxury cruise ship and passed it off as images from the Costa Concordia. Italian bloggers pounced on the mistake as yet another problem with the National Order of Journalists, the body that licenses journalists in the country. Anna Momigliano is a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor in Italy. She says that this is another black mark for the Order, which is supposed to ensure quality reporting.

ANNA MOMIGLIANO:

They aired a video of a luxury ship shaking, and it turns out it was uploaded from YouTube. It was filmed by a tourist in 2010. Of course, the journalists knew. It says it was uploaded in 2010. My grandmother could have guessed it was a fake.

BOB GARFIELD:

The episode of the fake video footage has put pressure on the National Order of Journalists. What is the National Order of Journalists?

ANNA MOMIGLIANO:

Well, essentially Italy is the only western democracy of the world where to be a journalist you need a license. You have to take two years of internship. After that, you are admitted to a state-controlled exam which, until 2009, it was done with typewriters. And then if you pass the exam, proving that you can use effectively a typewriter, you can be officially a journalist.

BOB GARFIELD:

The National Order of Journalists — sounds like something from the Da Vinci code.

ANNA MOMIGLIANO:

In Italy people are used to it. We have national orders for everything. You have National Order of pharmacists, of physicians, of lawyers, of cab drivers. We like to register people a lot. [LAUGHS] You need to register to do everything.

BOB GARFIELD:

In the thirties, when the fascists contrived this mechanism, I, I gather professionalism wasn't primarily on their mind.

ANNA MOMIGLIANO:

The notion of having a professional guild came from Mussolini which, of course, was a way to repress the press. After World War II the following democratic government decided to keep the guild but with a different angle, saying it's not to make life difficult to —for journalism, but it's to protect citizens from the — mistakes of journalists. But it hasn't been really effective.

BOB GARFIELD:

And along comes this scandal with the state news channel Rai faking video footage in a very big story. Is this going to ultimately be the undoing of the Order?

ANNA MOMIGLIANO:

My personal perspective is that the days of the National Order are numbered, for economic and for journalistic reasons. On one hand, the current government is trying to diminish the powers of all national orders to liberalize the economy.

On the other hand, there is growing criticism from the general public about the quality of the press in Italy, and it's not because of the Order but just since the Order is not doing anything about it, they prove themselves useless.

BOB GARFIELD:

At this stage, does it serve any function whatsoever, other than to keep out the unwelcome?

ANNA MOMIGLIANO:

Yeah, it does have some functions because, for instance, they got the website of a major newspaper to remove the images of a dead body which was really useless, and they did it in five minutes. But my personal opinion is that 80 percent of their job is to keep out —bloggers and non-professional journalists.

BOB GARFIELD:

I'm curious whether there's any criticism of the Order from within the Order, whether established journalists have editorialized against having licensing of journalism, even though they directly benefit from it?

ANNA MOMIGLIANO:

Quite a few people recently have come out and written about it, but this is quite a new trend until, let's say, six months ago. You could hear a lot of private comments against it, but nobody actually dared to come out and write something. But now things are changing because people like my age were really surprised by the fact that we had to use a, a typewriter to get registered, so —

BOB GARFIELD:

Mastery of a quill and inkwell no longer required?

ANNA MOMIGLIANO:

No, I think they abolished in 2009.

BOB GARFIELD:

[LAUGHS] Okay. Anna, thank you very, very much.

ANNA MOMIGLIANO:

Okay. Have a good day.

BOB GARFIELD:

Anna Momigliano is a correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor in Italy and an editor at Studio Magazine.