NAME: Marcella Smocovich
BACKGROUND: Degree in Sociology
ACTION/SECTOR: Communication and Journalism
POSITION: Journalist, now retired
My Background and Career
My name is Marcella Smocovich, I am a professional journalist, but now I am retired. I am 65 years old and I worked for 35 years at the "Il Messaggero" newspaper as well as in various other newspapers of the world such as "El Pais" and "China in Italy" for which I was Deputy Director; I currently work for "La voce di New York" (‘The Voice of New York’). I speak 5 languages and I have a degree in sociology. I am the daughter of exiles from Istria, as you can see by my last name. I am also a Hispanist, as I have studied in Spain and Portugal.
I worked for 35 years at the newspaper "Il Messaggero", working mostly as a desk editor which meant that I had to edit the pages of the newspaper. Among the journalists of my generation the role of Specialist Reporter, which is the top-level journalism, was reserved almost exclusively to men, who enjoyed higher wages and privileged situations.
Editing four pages of a newspaper, finding the titles of the articles, searching for photos, and correcting articles is all very different from conducting investigations to actually write an article. Doing surveys is much more interesting and puts you in a position of power, because it allows you to get inside the facts: this is why I chose to be a journalist. My generation, that is the generation of women who are now 65, was destined to be a housewife and find a husband: getting married was the only chance for the economic emancipation of women. However, thanks to my university studies and thanks to my participation in the Feminist Movement, which I helped to found in Italy, I soon became aware that working meant emancipation, and not only from the economic point of view. Reaching sexual liberation is very easy, but the being economically independent is more complicated: our society tends to protect women and tends to relegate them to the care of children and the home or to any kind of community work. Instead, journalism is definitely hard work but also a place of power, where initiative, resourcefulness, relationships and culture are key factors for success.
It was difficult to start working for such an important newspaper. Young journalists often need to be protected from respected, older colleagues, who help them to move through their first steps in the newspaper and teach them how to work. Journalism cannot be taught at university, you learn journalism by working. Your bosses and colleagues can help you make fewer mistakes and to get you important or interesting roles. Before being hired by a newspaper I did three years of hard work, at the most humble ranks. Newspapers pay their employees very little. Even today a journalist can earn as little as €25 for an article in the "Corriere della Sera" which fills an entire page of the newspaper. We need patience and perseverance, curiosity and initiative to try and find the news, but also to create alliances within the editorial office and to grow professionally. Today, for women it is less difficult to work in a newsroom, because journalism has lost both the social and economic power it had in the past. I had a very high salary, but today young journalists earn only up to 1500 euro per month.
Hints & Tips
To young women who want to pursue this profession, I say: “Listen well to your heart”. This is a job that can be done only if you have a passion, because it requires too many sacrifices. Being a journalist means giving up having a family, because you go into the newspaper office at 9 in the morning and go out at 11 pm. The second very serious obstacle is the difficulty of making a career: it is very difficult for a woman to become a newspaper director. The Director shapes the newspaper's policy, according to the interests of the publisher; the publisher is almost always an industrialist, a builder or a person who uses the newspapers for its financial aims, for example with banks. Often a woman is not considered up to the task of directing a newspaper or directing other men. The world of journalism is a very masculine world: it is very self-enclosed and very sexual phobic. But I recommend to young women to persist, because those who insist and manage to get a fisrt foot inside a newspaper finally manage to get a contract