November 6, 2007

A Farewell to an Italian journalist

Enzo Biagi“He left us an extraordinary lesson in journalism,” Stefano Folli, an editorialist for Il Sole-24 Ore newspaper, said on Sky TG24 TV. In fact, it cannot be denied in any way that Enzo Biagi, who died Tuesday in a Milan hospital at 87, was a master. As Folli puts it, he spoke “an extraordinarily simple language.” Perhaps, I'd say, Biagi was first and foremost one of the few Italian journalists who had the courage and talent to speak and write that way. And that is why even those who rarely agreed with him on political issues—myself included—couldn’t help to be fascinated by his style of writing.

In addition, Biagi was a terrific hard worker. As Corriere della Sera newspaper editor Paolo Mieli told the Italian news agency Apcom, “he used to tell me: 'If there's some assignment that some lazy journalist doesn't want, call me and I'll go.'” Laziness was actually unknown to him since he had alternated articles for many daily newspapers and magazines with TV work and writing a huge amount of books, mostly popular works—and several of them best-sellers in Italy. It was not by chance that famous satirist Sergio Saviane, referring to his prolificity and versatility, used to call him “Fenomeno Biagi.” But Saviane, who was himself a master, though of ambiguity, wasn’t entitled to appreciate Biagi’s legendary straightforward writing style.

Today, Italy mourns a “Witness of the Twentieth Century,” as many daily newspapers have chosen to title. But the statement doesn’t give the whole picture. If I had to pick a sentence that sums up Biagi's life I would like this quote by Biagi himself, recalled by his fellow colleague Gian Antonio Stella in the Corriere della Sera, to be it:

I would have been a journalist even without pay—thank goodness my publishers have never realized it.

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