It was February 22 when the first news of Covid contagion began to circulate in Italy, effectively kicking off a historical period that changed our habits and our way of thinking. Agnese Pini, director of "La Nazione", the most important newspaper in Florence, tells me about the quarantine days spent in the editorial office and how this pandemic has helped speed up a transformation of the newspaper itself.
What happened when the first restrictive measures were enacted?
In 24 hours we have completed a digital revolution, 95 journalists and editors and used to being in the editorial team side by side, we put them to work from home, starting a transformation in the way of doing newspaper. Even today we are trying to return to normalcy, the newspapers are made by sharing news and opinions, doing it without having the opportunity to look into each other's eyes was very complicated.
Were you afraid?
Yes I definitely. for what was happening, I cried while writing my first self-certification to get to the editorial office, the coronavirus was something that no one knew. No one was prepared for the voracity of the numbers that the Civil Protection gave us daily.
What happened then?
The virologists each said different things, and this generated the confusion of the first moments, we immediately started too sensationalist titles, as if it were a case of news, sometimes even using strong words, too strong. At a certain point we realized that the weight of our words was much more important than that of any other news case, so we learned to moderate our words. However, this did not appease a hate campaign towards a certain press, accused of making information that spread fear, today I can claim the fact that I have acted differently, used a way of communicating other than television, simply by telling that the cases of contagion grew and we did not know where it would arrive.
Do you have a vivid memory of the quarantine period?
One of the things that surprised me most during the quarantine period was that of the letters: every morning I found some on my desk, written in my hand as in the past, this was something that moved me a lot. In fact, newspapers have therefore become a place where we know each other, having to confront each other makes us feel close, we then reopened the page of the letters in the newspaper, but with the resumption of normal life, the letters have decreased again. In the editorial office we lived through those months with the awareness that we were facing a historical moment, our newspaper has 14 local editorial offices, we have never closed any, maintaining a lively presence in every city where we are.
What have you understood in these months?
At the Nation we have hung on the wall, a newspaper headline from November 66, which personally tells well how to do journalism: "Flood in Florence, the city calmly experiences tragic hours."
A title that I think is important, because at that moment the newspaper also became an institution, it told citizens that they had to live calmly, it is a reassuring title, today as then citizens do not need new anxieties. Even today the truth is that there is no univocal truth, and therefore the difficult thing is to make the confusion as less confusing as possible.
We were born with a sheet when Florence was the capital, to get to today's newspaper in which we report from 14 editorial offices in Tuscany, resisting digital is impossible, as a newspaper we will soon have to make another transformation, if La Nazione has existed for 161 years is because we have been able to change, sometimes telling what newspapers are is good for us journalists and readers.
Photo: public profile Agnese Pini