Commentary. While we are indeed heretics, and we’re certainly of the left, our way is as close to St. Francis’s vow of poverty as it comes.

If 5 Stars wants to save money, manifesto can’t help them

I would like to thank Roberto Saviano for posing this question in his article in La Repubblica about the cuts in government funding for the media, aimed particularly against Radio Radicale, the Avvenire and our newspaper: “A government that will save money on il manifesto?”

The notion of the government saving money by cutting funding to our newspaper would be a humorous one, if it wasn’t for the fact that some are trying to claim the moral high ground, wagging their fingers at a cooperative that has certainly not been amassing untold riches. Because, while we are indeed heretics, and we’re certainly of the left, our way is as close to St. Francis’s vow of poverty as it comes.

A government that thinks it should be saving money on il manifesto is perhaps confusing us with all the newspapers financed by the owners of health corporations or banks, by strong lobbies, and by healthy profit-making advertising operations. There is no justification for instead targeting us, a cooperative of working members without any protectors among the powers-that-be.

Rather, our only protectors are the many thousands of readers who have been buying our newspaper for almost 50 years, and who allow us to exist. Our share of public funding covers no more than 30 percent of our expenses—as for the rest, we are the most straightforward market player among all newspapers. We are even an example (not only rare, but rather unique these days) of a “pure” publisher, with no ties to any other interests: all we have is a daily newspaper, a website, an international policy monthly, two cultural supplements, and—our latest addition—an environmentalist one.

Readers of print media are an endangered breed, and this sector should be strengthened and supported, just like the cultural sector as a whole. This is even more crucial in a country marked by an increasing proportion of illiteracy, a fact of which Professor De Mauro never ceases to remind us. Unfortunately, it cannot be said that this government, with the 5 Stars front and center, is bucking this trend.

Indeed, what is happening is the exact opposite—as demonstrated, for instance, by the mayor of Monfalcone, who has been keeping us, together with the Avvenire, out of the town library for 166 days. She claims that we represent a political party, a certain “Communist party” that she isn’t able to identify any further. We have never represented any party, not even back when the Communist parties were a powerful and important force in Italy.

It’s very easy to target media outlets and force them to close, or at least make their life difficult. One just has to go with the flow, and line up behind the bulldozers that are coming for print media anyway. It makes for a grotesque and brutal spectacle, but one that is a perfect image for the times we are living in.

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