Italian journalist | Eugenio Scalfari, who transformed Italian journalism, passes away

Italian journalist | Eugenio Scalfari, who transformed Italian journalism, passes away

Eugenio Scalfari, an Italian journalist, passed away at age 98.

(AP) ROME — The Senate president reported that Eugenio Scalfari, who helped change Italian journalism by founding La Repubblica, a liberal daily that dared to challenge Italy’s conventional newspapers, passed away on Thursday at the age of 98.

While debating a bill, Senate President Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati called for a moment of silence to remember one of the greats of Italian journalism.

When it debuted on already packed newsstands in 1976, the Rome-based La Repubblica made history by grabbing readers’ attention with snappy headlines and a tabloid format. Its cheeky writing style contrasted sharply with the austere syntax then employed by Milan-based Corriere Della Sera, Italy’s top publication.

His innovative approach worked, and La Repubblica rose to become Italy’s second-largest daily newspaper.

In his later years, self-described atheist Scalfari wrote extensively in La Repubblica about lengthy conversations he had with Pope Francis over the phone and in person.

Scalfari stated on television that Pope Francis is the person who fascinates him the most. The revolutionary he is

He identified himself as the pope’s “great friend.”

According to the Vatican’s official media, the pontiff was “devastated” to learn of the passing of his buddy. Francis was committing his soul to the Lord in prayer, the Vatican stated, and “keeps tenderly the recollection of those contacts and the hard dialogues.”

Scalfari engaged in several battles in the early going using the pages of La Repubblica. His was the first major Italian newspaper to call for a reconsideration of the Communist party in Italy, which Christian Democratic-led coalitions had skillfully kept out of power by forming coalitions with a variety of far smaller coalition partners in the past.

After Silvio Berlusconi entered politics in the middle of the 1990s and became the leader of a center-right bloc that would eventually form three Italian governments and make him prime minister, he waged a relentless campaign against him in his weekly articles. La Repubblica charged Berlusconi with entering politics to protect his commercial interests.

Nevertheless, one of the first condolences after Scalfari’s passing came from Berlusconi, who continues to lead the center-right Forza Italia party he founded three decades ago.

He wrote, “Eugenio Scalfari was a figure of reference for my political adversaries. Today, though, I can’t help but acknowledge that he was a fantastic publisher and journalist, whose commitment to and enthusiasm for his profession I always admired.

Scalfari’s passing “leaves an unfillable vacuum in the public life of our nation,” said Italian Premier Mari Draghi, who also lauded the journalist for “the purity of his prose, the depth of his analyses, and the daring of his beliefs.”

According to Draghi, Scalfari’s columns “were fundamental reading for anyone wanting to understand politics and the economy.”

Scalfari argued for a different interpretation of the Communist Party of Italy, which had been the biggest in the West, claiming it had abandoned its Soviet foundations. Numerous ex-Communists joined newly formed leftist parties, many of which later joined forces with them to create coalition governments in Italy.

La Repubblica’s attraction to left-leaning readers grew to be so widespread that it steadily reduced the readership of the then-popular Communist and post-Communist newspaper Unita.

Throughout a more than 50-year career, Scalfari has been referred to as everything from an ideological opportunist to the “Lider Maximo of Italian Journalism,” a reference to the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s moniker.

His ability to continue stirring up controversy even after leaving his post as editor of La Repubblica in 1996 was evidence of his persistent power.

The life of Scalfari was filled with notable victories. He was also a founding partner of the popular weekly news magazine L’Espresso in addition to La Repubblica.

Under his leadership, La Repubblica and L’Espresso both adopted stern investigative methods, revealing some of the numerous scandals that defined a particularly turbulent period in postwar Italian history.

Most notably, a 1964 effort by an Italian general to stage a coup was exposed by L’Espresso in 1967.

Scalfari, who was born on April 6th, 1924, in the port city of Civitavecchia, close to Rome, first pursued a legal education. He started writing in 1950 for the prestigious journals Il Mondo and L’Europeo before quitting in 1955 to start the L’Espresso project.

Between 1963 and 1968, he served as the magazine’s editor-in-chief. From 1970 to 1975, he served as the managing director of L’ Espresso Publishing, which he helped turn into one of Italy’s most significant publishing houses.

Scalfari had two children, Enrica and Donata, from his marriage to Simonetta De Benedetti.

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