Declaration of Independence of the Corriere della Sera.
Over the last thirty years, a swelling number of solemn commitments, court agreements, written and unwritten rules, and published articles have been consolidated at Corriere della Sera headquarters on Via Solferino. They are now universally recognized as parts of the newspaper’s cultural and formal heritage. On May 29, 1973 the newspaper’s fundamental principles were published on its front page: the independence of the newspaper and its journalists from political power, their independence from pressure groups, “a special commitment to providing information on social, cultural, civil, and environmental problems in support of the most modern, advanced, and appropriate solutions for the elimination of imbalances, unjustified privileges, and parasitic relationships, and to promoting progress towards a more just and more balanced society.” A year later, these principles assumed legal significance when they were signed before the courts. It was also at that time that the historic “Corriere Journalists’ Code,” authored today by Paolo Mieli, now the paper’s director, started to take shape. The various agreements made by the publisher and journalists gradually created a body of rights and rules recognized as guaranteeing specific protection for the editors in relations with respect the publisher/owner, a sort of “Journalists’ Bill of Rights.” Accordingly, this modern-day “Declaration of Independence” also establishes the rights of readers and the corresponding duties of those who write and edit the newspaper. In this context, the duty of the journalist towards the publisher/owner is also highlighted, where the former is obliged to act consistently with the principles set forth in the “Declaration” vis-à-vis those who do not work in the editorial offices. Solemn principles and related rules are also found in the inaugural programs of new directors at the Corriere della Sera. When read in sequence, a number of phrases combine to form a common statement of intent for the newspaper that remains valid over time. The current “Declaration of Independence of the Corriere” includes passages from the bylaws of other authoritative and recognized newspapers and media at the international level.
Via Solferino, Our Heritage
“A fact is a fact, but a word is nothing but a word” … “We take pride in being objective; we take pride in reminding ourselves that you, the public…want to be given exact information; we take pride in maintaining our freedom of judgment, even with our closests friends” (Umberto Torelli Viollier, in the first published issue of the Corriere della Sera, March 5-6, 1876). The Corriere della Sera is an independent newspaper with a manifestly European mission, “free from any political or economic biases, whether those imposed from without or arising from within” (Ugo Stille). “To inform means, beyond reporting events, the exploration into their deeper causes, investigating the background, and hiding nothing. A free press that shines the spotlight on all issues, free of complicity with interest groups, clears the air of suspicion, and that dispels artfully planted doubts has a balancing and calming effect” (Piero Ottone). A journalist joins this newspaper “with the freedom to think, write, control, criticize, correct, advise, and, if necessary, denounce” (Mario Borsa). “He knows that he has to produce a free newspaper, guarantee that the information provided is as complete as possible, then seek out ‘the possible truth,’ and report the dialectic amongst a whole series of truths in the attempt to arrive at the truth itself, or at least a non-lie” (Alberto Cavallari).
The Mission of the Corriere della Sera
This Declaration of Independence summarizes the “mission” of the Corriere della Sera (in all its daily newspaper editions and in all types of media, be they electronic, radio, television, via satellite, on paper, where its trademark appears) and the guidelines shared by its journalists and recognized by the publisher. The Declaration cites and establishes values, habits, rules, and principles previously affirmed in the newspaper in order to consolidate them, develop, diffuse, and enforce them whenever they are disobeyed. The newspaper is the most classic organ of information, but it also represents an industry and, like any enterprise, its product – the newspaper – is subject to criteria of quality and reliability, which are absolute in this case, since its success in the marketplace depends on the public trust. To be great, a newspaper must beat the competition and win over readers. However, it must also be capable of expressing ideas, convictions, projects, and feelings; it must be able to leave a mark on the society of its time. With expansion, mergers, alliances, and take-overs, the economic interests connected with newspaper ownership are becoming increasingly complex. Consequently, a daily battle is waged to maintain credibility, honesty, and independence in the treatment of news, including issues connected with the owners of the newspaper itself. “But the principle of journalism is very simple: we have to be honest in our judgments and truthful in our reporting. A wall … is raised to protect us, the people who produce the newspaper, from the pressures of company interests” (Time, January 24, 2000, upon the merger of Time-Warner-AOL).
Guarantee for Readers
The autonomy and independence of the Corriere della Sera from interests outside the sphere of a free press are of paramount importance, especially for its readers. “The independence and non-manipulation of news are a guarantee for the rights of readers, the protection of which is the overriding priority of editorial work” (El Pais). “Journalists must make every effort to preserve the trust of their readers, to keep themselves out of the spotlight, to report the news and not make it” (Washington Post). “Authoritativeness and credibility are also guaranteed by a clear distinction between news and advertising, between editorial choices and marketing criteria. The only criterion for the allocation and breakdown of the space reserved for information every day (page layout) is the journalistic significance of the events.”
A Daily Obligation
The Corriere della Sera wants to present quality, responsible, impartial, complete, accurate, fair, and universally comprehensible information every day. It wants to publish clear analyses, background investigations, pleasant readings, immediate criticism, and stimulating opinions. It wants to give a sense of the flow of information, and make it possible for the reader to know and understand it so that he can arrive at his own conclusions. Correct and free information is the basis for the correct, free formation of public opinion, and thus the democratic, pluralistic system with which the Corriere della Sera identifies according to liberal and social principles.
The newspaper aims to “seek out the truth boldly, responsibly, and correctly, unintimidated by special interests and disinterested in protecting others (….) Analysis of points of view must be the rule, including the statements of persons charged with or under investigation for criminal offenses. “The power of the newspaper involves several specific obligations: give a hearing to those who do not have a voice; absolutely avoid any attitude that bespeaks of arrogance; and approach the public consistently with the dictates of civil honesty and transparency. “The first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth to the extent that it can be ascertained. The newspaper must tell the entire truth of which it has knowledge. The newspaper must serve its readers and the general public, not the private interests of its owners. The newspaper must not be allied with any special interest” (Washington Post). The notion of responsibility also covers the special functional link between the newspaper and its employees, an aspect which is both ethical and professional. The newspaper is the product, or better, the fruit of the journalists, when they are considered in terms of their individual capacities and functions. In this sense, each one of them creates his or her own newspaper and is responsible for it, feeling a constant sense of participation in choices and decision making.
“The news must be reported consistently with the principle of truthfulness, subject to rigorous verification, and must be stated, described, and presented with impartiality” (Council of Europe). Impartiality means knowing that reality is complex and that there are different points of view: journalists must take this into account, even if impartiality does not equal detachment or neutrality. Space always needs to be given to multiple “truths.” But the impartiality of a newspaper (and a journalist) is a mental inclination before it is the application of a technique. To prove one’s impartiality, it is not enough to place two opposing “expert” opinions on a controversial issue side-by-side on the same page.
Completeness does not mean overabundant information, superimpositions, redundancy, “embroidery,” and articles of endless length. The reader is owed a clear hierarchy of news; easy links between the various articles, news accounts, analysis, and commentary; simple reading structure; summaries. And taking into account both the time that the public can dedicate to each event and newspaper reading in general, and the variety of reader interests, the newspaper must furnish the information that every citizen needs and has the civic obligation to know; it must both offer outlets for amusement and satisfy those who read the paper not to pass the time but for their work. Information balances what the public demands and what the newspaper supplies, where the latter decides what to bring up for discussion. The product must never be influenced by the characteristics of the internal organization and organizational chart, or by the moods of the journalists who work there.
Accuracy is realized by checking both facts and sources (which must normally be cited), using more than one source unless this is impossible, making a clear, explicit distinction between first-hand and second-hand sources, and avoiding exaggerated information and fabrications. “The journalist must always ask himself: How do you know? How can you be sure? Where’s the proof? Who’s the source? How does that person know? What are his interests? What supporting documents are available?” (Gannett Group, USA Today). The use of anonymous sources is the exception and not the rule and must be justified in any event. The legitimate protection of a source and professional secrecy are the indisputable guarantees of every journalist in conformity with the law. Occasionally, recourse to ‘well-informed sources’, ‘observers’, ‘experts’, and ‘diplomats’ is unavoidable. But this must never be due to superficial investigative work and laziness. When material borrowed from other newspapers or other media is used, for example sources on the Internet, the source must be cited. Summaries of agency dispatches will be presented as such. Editors and reporters do not sign their full names if they have not added original information or added an interpretation of the information contained in the dispatches (except in the case of the public domain, as agreed with management). “Good writing” is not sufficient justification in itself to present an amalgam of agency reports and clippings as one’s own. The use of initials is preferable when several agency reports or Internet sources are used to compile articles. Whenever possible, it is preferable for the journalist to make direct observations, and his testimony must have priority after confirming other sources of information. Accuracy also means headlines and summaries that correspond to the facts and information provided in the articles and do not exaggerate or water down the thrust of the information.
The journalists of the Corriere della Sera are professionally committed to the highest standard of fair play. “An article is not correct if it omits very important or significant facts. Fair play includes completeness. No article is correct if it reports largely insignificant information to the detriment of significant facts. Fair play demands honesty towards the reader” (Washington Post). When an error is committed, it is important for the newspaper to admit so frankly, clearly, and promptly. The journalists generally responds to the factual circumstances.
Comprehensibility of the Facts
The reader needs to know the horizontal links between facts, to know what consequences distant events will have for him. The Corriere della Sera shall focus its primary attention not merely on Italian and European events, which are now a part of “internal” and no longer “foreign” affairs, but also on those international events that could trigger powerful repercussions in Europe. It is necessary to consider not only events (the news) but also ongoing processes, in other words, news in the making, to keep up with the flow of history and not be “surprised” by developments that are predictable to a certain extent. Providing immediate news accounts is not the only task of a journalist. The news has to be put in perspective so that the reader can understand the causes of events and their possible consequences. Analysis, as distinct from the events, is the first, essential complement to news reporting. To realize this objective, the use of journalists and specialized contributors will also be fostered. The traditional hierarchy of news in terms of geographical vicinity/distance is fading. Similarly, the traditional hierarchy of information with politics occupying the dominant position with respect to economics, society, and culture is losing its validity. Often, it is not politics that leads the other sectors, but rather the other sectors that lead and condition it. To understand “what is happening,” “where are we going,” it is essential that investigations also be conducted: they represent the only means of digging into the present and anticipating the evolution of reality.
The Journalist’s Craft
“The journalist’s craft is that of a conscientious craftsman wrestling every day with the ‘modest truths’ of events…that must be rectified, reorganized, and clarified every day. Journalism must not claim to speak the truth, to impose a closed and dominating truth. Journalism must express the assumption of responsibility, professional commitment, and presence in the world. Indifference represents the antechamber of cynicism” (Le Monde). When choosing and evaluating information or recounting events, the journalist must not be conditioned by the direct or indirect interests of the publisher or the newspaper itself when engaged in sponsorship activities. “A reporter may express a professional journalistic opinion but not a personal opinion” (BBC).
The New Media
Like the print version, all other forms assumed by the Corriere della Sera (online, radio, TV, theme channels, satellite, etc.) fall entirely under the responsibility of the director. Their journalistic content and links are subject to this responsibility, as exercised through the management hierarchy (vice directors, chief editors, story editors, journalists). In the case of other content provided by other company divisions (e.g. advertising), responsibility is exercised through the traditional forms of supervision, review, and control performed at the newspaper. All current operating procedures of the Corriere della Sera are applied here.