One of Italy’s largest mainstream newspapers has sacked a veteran journalist for daring to write that most of what is found in the papers today is fake news, because they “care nothing for the truth.”
In the most forceful paragraph of the essay in La Repubblica that cost him his job of 18 years, Piergiorgio Odifreddi wrote that “the majority of the news that goes to print or that is read online is obviously fake news: not only stories on religion and politics, which are sectors governed by Nietzsche’s saying ‘there are no facts, just interpretations,’ but also articles on science, where practically the only stories that attract attention are hoaxes.”
“My impression is that in the end newspapers care nothing for the truth,” wrote Odifreddi in his searing indictment of his profession.
“Most journalists and newspapers are not interested in the truth, but in scoops,” he continued, “that is, news that makes other journalists and newspapers talk. And if fake news makes people talk more than real news, then fake news it is.”
The director of La Repubblica, Mario Calabresi, lost no time in handing Mr. Odifreddi his pink slip, and publicly excoriating the reporter in a personal column of his own published the following day.
Expressing his regret that their long years of fruitful collaboration were at an end, Mr. Calabresi said he had no other choice but to fire the journalist “for what you wrote about a paper for which you have written for years.”
“The problem is that you cannot work for a newspaper and at the same time argue that journalists do not care about the truth and that today it is more useful to publish fake news than the truth,” he wrote.
This, he continued, is “unacceptable and intolerable, not just for me but for everyone who works here. We do our job with passion and professionalism and the gratuitousness of your words yesterday hurt us.”
“You know you have always enjoyed the utmost freedom, but the only liberty that you cannot take is to insult or mock the community with which you work,” he said.
Odifreddi ended his original essay, which was intentionally published on the world day of fact-checking, by attributing the decline of mainstream print media to a lack of attention to the truth.
“The real problem is why in the world readers should keep reading certain things. In fact, they often do not read the fake news, and sometimes eventually stop reading the newspaper altogether. Perhaps a meditation on why newspapers are suffering falling circulation could start here on world fact-checking day,” he wrote.