Ronald Dore discovers that it is not only British tabloids which make up storiesby Ronald Dore / March 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
If you have to fill a column and are a little unsure of your facts or of the weight your own opinions will carry, just invent an authoritative source. Preferably, of course, it should be a plausible and wholly fictitious Professor Bunbury. But if your imagination will not run to that, and you feel in a reckless mood, then cite an actual person, preferably somebody unlikely to read what you have written. The only snag is that you have a good chance of being fired if your editor finds out. But not apparently in Italy.
It was the local baker who told me how much he had enjoyed reading an interview with me in a recent supplement of La Repubblica. I was a bit puzzled. I remembered a couple of messages on the answering machine from a certain Eugenio Occorsio of that paper. He had wanted to interview me about the recent round of US-Japan trade disputes. He had not rung back. Or had he? Old men forget, but surely not that much.
Show me, I said. And sure enough there was a long interview-questions and answers all in direct quotation-from a certain Ronald Dore, a 54-year-old American professor of international economics. I happen to be rather older, British and a professor of political science, but the name was mine. So was the photograph. But there all similarity ended. Neither the muddled meanderings nor the outrageous assertions (such as “Japan is hastening to rebuild its military strength”) were anything that I could ever have uttered.
Repubblica is the newspaper of the left intelligentsia. Its director, Eugenio Scalfari, thunders from its pages with a moral authority which makes him much admired among that category of socially responsible men and women to which-most days at least-I consider myself to belong. So when I wrote to him, it was more in sorrow than in anger. This really is an outrage. Retraction please. And where are your journalistic ethics?
Within an hour of the fax arriving, not Scalfari but the offending Occorsio was on the telephone. It was his earnest wish, expressed with the deepest apologies, that a scandal might be avoided. Could we do a proper interview? One that would give me the opportunity to correct the false impression of my views? It was to Scalfari I wrote, I said, and from Scalfari that I expected a reply.
Two days later I…