Italy: Seeking Press Officer. 300 Euros Per Month.

[All links lead to Italian-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

The district of Arconate in Italy's province of Milan published a job advertisement online for a press officer on August 12, 2013 expiring on September 2 (and now deleted from the district's site). By all accounts, the job appeared to be standard, requiring that applicants (via Ilcomizietto):

  • have at least two years of professional experience in journalism and/or communication
  • be a member of at least two years of the national order of professional or freelance journalists
  • not have ongoing working relationships and assignments with any publications
  • and not own any websites or blogs of a journalistic nature.

But for the position, which required the future employee to be “available via phone and willing to participate in events and activities in the evenings and during national holidays”, the district only offered a gross salary of 300 euros per month.

On DIS.AMB.IGUANDO, a popular blog on communication written by Giovanna Cosenza, professor of Semiotics in the Department of Philosophy and Communications of the University of Bologna, the peculiar job offer has provoked many comments. On the blog, readers agree with the professor when she says:

So bene che la pubblica amministrazione ha pochi soldi. Ma così si straccia e svende – ancor più di quanto non sia già stracciata e svenduta – la professione giornalistica. Povera Italia.

I know that the local government bodies haven't got much money. But this undervalues and undersells the journalistic profession – even more than it had already been undervalued and undersold. Poor Italy.

Among the comments is that of Amalia Temperini, from the blog Bricolage, who argues by accepting such low pay, journalists themselves support exploitation:

Di più me la prendo con quelle persone che accettano svilendo il loro percorso professionale. In molti, difatti, con la scusa della passione, accettano tali compromessi, non rendendosi conto che stanno recando un danno altissimo a tutti coloro che, giorno per giorno, sudano per migliorare il proprio status lavorativo, e rendere la propria vita (e quella degli altri) più civile.

More than anything, I blame those who accept these offers, debasing their careers. In fact, many people, with the excuse of passion for their work, accept these compromises without realising that they are damaging everyone who struggles on a daily basis to improve their employment status and make their lives (and that of others) more civilized.

There are some who point out that in Italy the situation is similar in other sectors, and others claim that the district's job offer is worth it in the long run compared to the insecurity of working as a freelance journalist, often for free or for very little. And others still, such as the user Pier Dario Forni, express irony:

[…] se nell’edificio del comune c’é un balcone, per comunicare con i pochi cittadini del paese sarebbe sufficiente affacciarsi e parlare con un megafono.

[…] if there is a balcony in the building, all they need to do to communicate with the few citizens that live there is lean over and talk to them with a megaphone.

The news, which fits in perfectly with current debates about youth unemployment or underemployment, was also mentioned in the national newspapers. Twitter user @mauretta replied to a tweet by newspaper La Repubblica, with a link to the news, underlining the fact that newspapers were jointly responsible for the exploitation of young journalists:

A press officer to earn €300 gross per month indignant, but no article on your interns who earn €0?

- maura de gaetano (@ Mauretta) August 29, 2013

On the other hand, in response to the article that appeared in newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, user roby64 suggested that the job offer may be fake:

Un bando del genere serve solo come “copertura” per dare una mancia a qualche parente. Si tratta, molto probabilmente, di poche ore settimanali, quindi 300 euro sono giustificati.

Such job offers are simply a front to give some relative extra cash. Most likely they will only work a few hours a week in which case the €300 are justified.

The district, who originally tried to justify the content of the job offer, eventually defended itself by saying that there had been a mistake in the description of the position, reiterating that it does not have funds available to raise the pay. Someone has, however, pointed out that the Mayor of Arconate, Mario Mantovani, holds several public offices (Mayor of Arconate, Councillor for Health, Deputy Governor of the Lombardy Region and Senator) receiving proportionately lavish salaries. A reader, who calls himself Il Conte, in a letter sent to the Legnano 24 newsroom entitled “Mantovani's sense of the ridiculous”, wrote:

Lo avevamo lasciato alle prese con due poltrone. Gestire il gigante multimiliardario della sanità lombarda, restando saldamente ancorato alla cadrega del feudo, è un esercizio di valore non trascurabile. Aggiungerci uno sberleffo alla categoria dei giornalisti, per mezzo di un bando per addetto stampa, è un virtuosismo degno di un circo.

We left him to struggle with two roles. Managing the multi-billion euro giant of the Lombardy health sector while remaining firmly anchored to the feudal throne, is a mighty feat. To add a sneer at the professional journalists, by means of a job offer for a press officer, is a virtuosity worthy of a circus.

Consequently, the contrast between the mayor of this small town and the offer that is being made to the potential press officer cannot help but raise the issue of the costs of Italian politics and the so-called “caste” [en] (a term commonly used in Italy in reference to politicians and their unjustified privileges).

This theme, that of the gap between the caste and the real world, unites in discontent both the young, who have ever less job security, and the old, who have difficulty getting back into the job market. While on one hand the dejection is caused by job offers such as the one published by the district of Arconate that, given that it was offered by a governmental body, should have been more respectable, on the other hand there are groups of citizens who refuse to give up.

Among these initiatives is “Voglio Restare” (I Want To Stay) which, by opposing the growing problem of the “brain drain” from Italy, has given itself the objective of “changing the country, so as to not have to change country”. An appeal from the group:

Politici, editorialisti, imprenditori ci dicono che precarietà e disoccupazione giovanile sono un dramma, quasi non fossero le conseguenze di scelte politiche condivise […] abbiamo bisogno di un cambiamento qui e ora, che ci permetta di restare: non vogliamo il posto di qualcun altro, vogliamo costruire il nostro. Non chiediamo privilegi, ma semplicemente le condizioni di dignità e agibilità necessarie a prendere in mano il nostro futuro e quello dell’Italia […]

Politicians, editors and business men tell us that youth unemployment and instability are a tragedy, almost as if they were not the consequences of political choices […] we need a change here and now, that will allow us to stay: we do not want someone else's job, we want to create our own. We do not ask for privileges, but simply the necessary conditions to be able to take hold of our future and that of Italy with dignity and equal rights […]

Post written in collaboration with Gaia Resta.

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