IIt was 7.55 a.m. on a February day in 2018 when members of an elite Italian police force raided the office of a small news website in Naples. The day before, she had uncovered links between elected politicians and organized groups in an illegal landfill opponent, and her staff, who were already at their desks, watched in disbelief as the officers ransacked their files.
The story sent shock waves through the political establishment and helped that fanpage.it what it is today: one of the most successful news sites in Italy.
“That day was a turning point,” said Sacha Biazzo, the journalist behind the investigation, who, with the help of a hidden camera and the support of a former gangster, filmed meetings between members of the Neapolitan mafia and politicians.
“Since then, people have realized that we’re not just a small online news and gossip outlet. They began to think of us as an investigative website that could hit the heart of political power. Readers started delivering pizzas to our office as a gesture of gratitude for what we had done. “
Almost four years later, Fanpage with now 67 journalists and editors is a thorn in the side of politicians, gangsters and criminals and receives 3 million visitors every day.
When it was founded in the early 2000s, the outlook was completely different. “In the beginning, Fanpage was just a Facebook page with general news and videos on various topics,” says Francesco Cancellato, editor-in-chief.
“As time went on, the publisher realized that we could do something different and started hiring journalists to write the first articles. From a Facebook page, fan page became a news agency with few opinion stories and lots of news, ranging from gossip to crime. Then we started an investigation team […] Our aim was to give the authorities investigating corruption and crime new information. “
Nickname Back stairs, the investigation team of the fan page consists of undercover journalists with hidden cameras, whose assignments can last up to two years. Its stated goal is to “reach the highest levels of power without succumbing to vertigo” and “to explore the depths of the darkest corners of society … to film everything, check everything and publish the truth”.
In a digital age that has challenged some traditional models of journalism, Fanpage is breaking some of the biggest scandals involving the church, politicians, business people and criminals.
In 2017 a fanpage journalist posing as a seminarian took one An elderly priest’s account of sexual abuse by dozen of the hearing impaired in an institute 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, were awarded the prize European Prize for Investigative and Forensic Journalism, and led to the fact that a MP for the far-right Brothers of Italy party placed in custody from the Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office. The MP said in a statement he had suspended himself from the party that he had never received illegal funds and that he did not represent racist, anti-Semitic or extremist views.
Corrado Formigli, a TV presenter who is investigating his Piazza Pulita Talk show on La7 television said Fanpage’s strength is its long-term commitment to stories. “It created an investigation team that could work on a project for months, if not years, which is very difficult today as newspapers and television are often forced to deal with topical issues,” he said. “There is deep, thorough work behind Fanpage’s use of hidden cameras that includes creating a false identity for the undercover journalist and patiently dealing with sources. The end result is exceptional and it works great. “
Over the past four years, dozens of people involved in illegal activities have been arrested after fanpage investigations and numerous politicians have resigned. The site continues to be profitable and has opened newsrooms in Rome and Milan.
What makes fan pages even more remarkable is their southern Italian origins. It was founded in Naples, the largest city in one of the most deprived regions of Europe, plagued by high unemployment and persistent social and economic challenges.
“Fanpage not only reported on the problems of the south from Naples, but also hired many young southern Italians, many of whom had difficulties finding a job in mainstream Italian journalism,” says Adriano Biondi, who started as an intern at Fanpage and is now deputy editor.
“The south and especially Naples are among the most culturally fertile areas in Europe. There is an enormous untapped resource in terms of human capital, especially among women. If we take education into account, women in Italy are at a higher level than men, but Italian women have some of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. “
The majority of the journalists and editors of the fan page are under 30 years old. The oldest is 44 years old. Most of the unique visitors to the fanpage are in their 20s. Fanpage’s success is based not only on hiring young people, but also on speaking to them.
From the start, it has invested heavily in its social media profile. Its YouTube community is the same as that of La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera combined, and it is also the only Italian news website with more than 500,000 TikTok followers.
“The merit of the fanpage is that it has reached a large group of young, disaffected readers who did not follow the mainstream newspapers because they had no intention of reading the daily news,” said Annalisa Girardi, 27, the deputy political editor . “We knew if we wanted to include them we had to speak your language. Dealing with political or financial topics means being aware that there are readers who may not have heard of some specialist terminology. “
Cancellato said, “Our main concern is never to get old. We mustn’t make the mistake of growing old with our readers. We have no intention of taking over La Repubblica or Corriere. We are a fan page, we are something else and our wish is to change the way news is made in Italy. “