An interview with Ugo Tramballi

Interview with: Ugo Tramballi, Journalist at Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy

Interviewd by: Marco Di Donato Researcher at UNIMED, Italy


1. Challenges of current journalism education: What is problematic in teaching digital journalism?

  • I believe that a journalist cannot or must not be, necessarily, a good teacher. It is not mandatory to know how to teach. If you are a good journalist, this does not means that you are a good teacher. New technologies are improving our work, but the dark side of the moon is that new technologies are reducing the number of journalists required by newspapers. Currently, with fewer than 200 journalists, you can manage a newspaper on a national level, and if you only have an online edition, you can even have only 80 people.
  • Another problem is, obviously, the economic crisis. We are changing our idea of journalism, influenced by the lack of financial resources. We should not forget that we are in the middle of a great revolution in this world, and we do not know what kind of results we will have at the end of this process.

2. Developing journalism education: What would be ideal model for teaching digital journalism? How to develop teaching in that direction?

  • The connection between aspiring journalists and teachers is ethics. This is mainly because these days, it is quite difficult to verify and use reliable sources; thus, ethics is the basis.
  • We also probably have to change our idea of how to organize our editorial staff. Today it is necessary to teach how to verify sources. Images are even easier to manipulate, and the CEO of Google recognized during a meeting with our director that it is almost impossible to validate images and sources coming from “citizen journalists”.

3. Combining practice and theory: What kind of new forms could be developed in order to teach both practical skills and a theoretical understanding of journalism?

  • The ambition is to offer good training to new journalists, teaching them to avoid following the news if the news is wrong. We have to train young professionals in order to offer them good preparation for specific events. Specialization is indeed the key word, moving towards a nonpartisan exposition of facts.

4. Local market needs: How is journalism education able to meet the needs of the journalistic labour market? In what way can this be improved?

  • Ethics, again, is the fundamental starting point. We probably have to teach students how to distinguish among the majority of news stories (essentially skylark) produced by social media. Finally, I think that we have to be honest with our youngest generation, because today, making the choice to be journalist is not easy at all, as it was when I made my choice about 37 years ago. We have to avoid, absolutely, mythification and mythology. Journalists must be able to work for newspapers, magazines, weeklies, etc.
  • With regard to formation of the path, we have to follow a stronger specialization of profiles, guaranteeing the possibility of practicing a job in the field, not necessarily abroad but also in one’s own country, such as in Italy, for example.
  • Finally, we have to improve the knowledge of languages, mainly English. Improving one’s ability to write and talk in English: this is unavoidable. And also, as a new journalist, you have to speak other languages such as Hindi, Arabic or Chinese — in other words, the languages of the future.

5. Interacting with the audience: How to teach social media skills? How to include content created by the audience? How to involve the audience in journalistic work?

  • Social media are, undoubtedly, a democratization tool offering new expression for everyone. This is simultaneously a new great opportunity but also a path leading towards an uncontrolled discussion of facts and news. Unfortunately, insulting and showing graphic images seems to be the main method used to gain visibility.