IIt was 7.55am on a February day in 2018 when members of an elite Italian police squad raided the Naples office of a small news site. The day before, she had uncovered links between elected politicians and organized groups in an illegal dumping racket, her employees already in their offices looking on in bewilderment while officers rummaged through their files.
The story sent shock waves through the political establishment and helped make fanpage.it what it is today: one of Italy’s most successful news sites.
“That day was a turning point,” said Sacha Piazzo, the journalist in charge of the investigation, who filmed, with a hidden camera and with the support of a former gangster, meetings between members of the Neapolitan mafia and politicians.
“Since then, people realized that we were not just a small outlet for news and rumors on the Internet. They started looking at us as an investigative website that could strike at the heart of political power. Readers started delivering pizza to our office as a gesture of gratitude for what we had done.”
For nearly four years, and now with 67 journalists and editors, Fanpage has become a thorn in the side of politicians, gangsters and common criminals, receiving 3 million unique visitors daily.
When it was founded in the early 2000s, expectations were quite different. “Initially, the Fanpage was just a Facebook page with general news and videos on a range of topics,” said Francesco Cancellato, its editor-in-chief.
“Over time, the publisher realized that we could aspire to do something different, so he started hiring journalists to write the first articles. From the Facebook page, Fanpage became a news outlet with a few opinion stories and a lot of news that ranged from gossip to crime. Then We opened an investigation team […] Our goal was to draw the attention of authorities investigating corruption and criminality to new leads.”
Nicknamed Backstair, Fanpage’s investigative team consists of undercover journalists with hidden cameras whose assignments can last up to two years. Its stated aim is to “reach the highest echelons of power without succumbing to vertigo” and “shovel deep into the darkest corners of society … photograph everything, verify everything and spread the truth.”
In a digital age that has posed challenges to some traditional models of journalism, Fanpage has broken down some of the biggest scandals involving the church, politicians, business, and criminals.
In 2017, a journalist on Fanpage, disguised as a seminary, recorded an elderly priest’s account of a sexual assault on dozens of hearing-impaired people at a seminary in Verona.
In October of this year, a series of video investigations into the relationship between right-wing political parties and neo-fascist movements, including alleged financial contributions, was awarded the European Prize for Investigative and Judicial Journalism, and led to the appointment of a member of the European Parliament from the right-wing Brothers of Italy party. extreme. Under investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Milan. The MEP said in a statement that he suspended himself from party membership that he had never received illegal funding and did not hold racist, anti-Semitic or extremist views.
Corrado Formigli, a TV presenter who rebroadcast his investigation Cleaning Campaign Talkhow on TV channel La7, said Fanpage’s strength lies in its long-standing commitment to stories. “I have created an investigative team capable of working on a project for months, if not years, which is very difficult today given that newspapers and television are often forced to deal with current affairs,” he said. “Behind Fanpage’s use of hidden cameras, there is a deep and comprehensive work that includes creating a false identity for the undercover journalist and a patient approach to sourcing. The end result is extraordinary and it works wonderfully.”
Over the past four years, dozens of people involved in illegal activities have been arrested after Fanpage’s investigations and several politicians have resigned. The site continues to make profits and has opened editorial rooms in Rome and Milan.
What makes Fanpage even more unique is its origins in southern Italy. Founded in Naples, the largest city in one of the most disadvantaged regions in Europe, it suffers from high unemployment and persistent social and economic challenges.
“From Naples, Fanpage not only reported on the problems of the south, but also employed many young southern Italians, many of whom struggled to find a job in the Italian mainstream press,” said Adriano Biondi, who started at Fanpage as an apprentice. Now its deputy editor.
The south, and Naples in particular, is among the most culturally fertile regions of Europe. There are huge untapped resources in terms of human capital, especially among women. If we take into account education, women have higher levels of unemployment than men in Italy, yet Italian women have some of the highest unemployment rates in Europe.”
The majority of Fanpage’s journalists and editors are under 30 years old. The oldest is 44. Most of Fanpage’s unique visitors are in their 20s. Fanpage’s success depends not only on hiring young people, but also on her ability to talk to them.
From the start she invested heavily in her social media profile. Its YouTube community equals that of La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera combined, and is also the only Italian news site with over 500,000 followers on TikTok.
“The advantage of Fanpage is that it reached that massive demographic of young, frustrated readers who didn’t follow established dailies because they had no intention of reading the daily news,” said Annalisa Girardi, 27, deputy political editor. We knew that if we wanted to include them, we had to speak their language. Covering political or financial issues means realizing that there are readers who may have never heard of some of the technical terms.”
“Our main concern is not to get old,” Cancellato said. We must not make the mistake of getting old with our readers. We have no intention of taking over La Repubblica or Corriere. We are the fan page, we are something else, and our desire is to change the way news is done in Italy.”