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Home > Publications > Quill > Italian job: Getting work as a reporter is no easy assignment


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Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Italian job: Getting work as a reporter is no easy assignment

Bruce Swaffield

Have you ever dreamed of working as a local reporter or editor in Rome, Florence, Venice or even Naples? Before you pack your bags and head off to one of these great cities, you may want to think twice. Make that three times.

In Italy, all prospective journalists are required by law (enacted in 1963) to pass a thorough examination, with three separate tests, before entering the profession.

First, there is an exercise that determines how well a person can report and craft a story. This test involves developing an article based on a news theme chosen by the candidate. A commission, which represents the National Council of the Order of Journalists, aids in narrowing the variety of subjects by suggesting at least six separate themes (national, international, economy, local news, sports and culture). The prospective journalist then must write a story that cannot exceed 1½ typed pages of 45 lines and 60 characters per line.

The second test is a written questionnaire that analyzes an individual’s knowledge of news as well as the political, economic and social impact of the media on the culture.

The third step is an oral test. This part consists of a one-on-one interview to determine whether the person knows the principles of professional ethics, the laws pertaining to journalism, and the techniques and practices relevant to the profession. According to the published guidelines (www.odg.it), the candidate is expected to possess knowledge of the following:

1. The history of journalism.

2. Sociology and psychology of public opinion.

3. Techniques and practices of journalism, including fundamental theories and journalistic practices.

4. Laws and legal judgments related to journalism, contractual and social security standards, administrative and penal standards concerning the press, and laws pertaining to an author’s rights.

5. Professional ethics.

6. The media and the Italian economy.

But this portion of the exam doesn’t end there. The test also includes a discussion (in the form of a paper) on a current issue in the news. The candidate may select the topic, but the article (5,500 to 6,000 characters) must be received by the secretary of the commission in Rome three days before the personal interview. The oral exam will begin with this piece of writing.

All three tests are graded in five primary areas: form; clarity, vigor and objectivity; structure and proportion among the various parts; content; and style. Overall point scores vary widely: Insufficient-Sufficient, 36-40; Discreet, 41-45; Good, 46-52; Optimal, 57-58; and Excellent, 59-60.

The requirements for passing the exam depend on meeting several standards in writing and performance. Official regulations state that: a candidate will be deemed unsuitable if he/she presents serious deficiencies in grammar and syntax; three separate tests will be given to determine whether a candidate is appropriate for the journalistic profession; the three tests will be adjusted so that a complete determination of sufficiency can be reached wherever possible; the commission will make a final judgment of those who present margins of uncertainty; and, as a part of his institutional powers, the president of the commission will ensure the uniformity of judgment between the general commission and the subcommission.

In case you’re interested, the next test will be given at 8:30 a.m. April 7 in Rome. Not quite ready? Don’t worry. There is a training session March 23-28 to help you prepare. The cost is 400 euros (about $520), but it includes all meals and lodging for six nights. Check out the Web site listed above for more details.

Special thanks to Stephanie Longo, who translated the information on the Ordine dei Giornalisti Web site. Longo is a writer and freelance photographer from Scranton, Pa., and is editor of The Villager in Moscow, Pa.

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