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Changing representations of organized crime in the Italian press

Abstract

Organized crime has long captured the attention of media, with books, movies, television, and the press offering different representations of what organized crime is. These representations tend to vary in different countries according to the specific coverage and reporting preferences of local media. The ways in which organized crime is framed by the media is of great importance, as mediated images of organized crime may have powerful effects on both the general public and policy-makers. The narrative presented, however, might be distorted and not fully correspond to the notion of organized crime as framed by academic communities. Particularly in the Italian scenario, scholarly definitions and narratives around organized crime have evolved and have been refined meaningfully over the years, presenting a complex, multi-layered, and diversified criminal panorama. Several studies have recently addressed press representations of Italian organized crime in the foreign press. However, the way in which the Italian press has represented the changing rhetoric on organized crime has so far been under-investigated. This research presents the results of a longitudinal media analysis of a selection of Italian newspapers, which aims to inspect the ways in which the press has represented the threats posed by organized crime over time.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See http://www.quirinale.it/elementi/Continua.aspx?tipo=Discorso&key=3 and http://www.corteappello.milano.it/documentazione/D_5614.pdf.

  2. 2.

    The fact that four of the seven search terms are mafia centered (as they refer to in general to the mafia, and in particular to Cosa Nostra, the ‘Ndrangheta, and the Camorra) should not be regarded as biasing towards “mafia” the identification of media articles. Rather, the choice of the keywords accounts for all four types of organized crime operating in Italy, as recently described in the socio-legal analysis done by Lavorgna and Sergi (2014a): in fact, “crimin! w/5 organizzat!” and “associazione w/5 delinquere” are deemed broad enough to cover media reporting of mixed criminal networks and “simple” criminal organizations. Also, the authors decided to look singularly for the three main mafias to reflect the fact that nowadays in Italian culture they are consistently represented as specific phenomena with their own singular identity in both journalistic (Limes 2014) and academic (Dickie 2014) discourse. As a consequence, this choice is part of the authors’ attempt to be as comprehensive as possible in the source selection.

  3. 3.

    The highest number of retrieved newspaper articles were published by La Stampa (129), followed by Il Resto del Carlino (83), Il Corriere della Sera (80), Il Giorno (75), La Nazione (39), Italia Oggi (6), Milano Finanza (5), La Gazzetta dello Sport (3), and Marketing Oggi (1). Until 2009, the newspaper La Stampa was responsible for most of the OC-related news. Starting from the year 2009, the topic of OC has been increasingly covered also in the other press titles. This has probably to do with the database Lexis Nexis Academic, which may have included articles from the other newspapers only since more recent years. Other potential problems related to the database lay in the inclusion of newspapers that have a regional focus (such as Milano Finanza and Il Resto del Carlino), which might have led to an overrepresentation of the views on OC dominant in some central and northern regions.

  4. 4.

    Unlike the other traditional Italian mafias, the Camorra’s organizational structure is more horizontal, with several mafia-like clans (such as the infamous Casalesi clan) based in Campania and acting independently of each other (Paoli 2007). In this analysis, however, the several clans have been grouped together under the umbrella term “Camorra” as it would have otherwise been impossible to keep them consistently separated given the lack of precisions in most news articles in the press with regards to this aspect of the organization.

  5. 5.

    As explained in Paoli (2007), contrary to media accounts, the “Sacra Corona Unita” no longer exists as a single viable organization, but there is rather a multiplicity of criminal groups, gangs, and white-collar criminal networks operating in the Apulia region, so that it would be more correct to refer to these groups as “Apulian Organized Crime”.

  6. 6.

    See Lavorgna and Sergi (2014a) for a recent review on these charges, typical of the Italian legal framework.

  7. 7.

    Caporalato (gangmaster system) is the activity of unlawful intermediation between employers and workers, which results in the exploitation of illegal work.

  8. 8.

    Only in the 23 references identified with the sub-node “social context” was the narrative different. The focus was on the fact that the mafioso attitude is common also outside mafia families, that the search for profit links the underworld and the upperworld, and that citizens sometimes cheer for mafia bosses.

  9. 9.

    In the specific case of “Mafia Capitale” the public prosecutors filed an allegation according to article 416bis of the Italian criminal code (which punishes mafia-type OC).

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Correspondence to Anna Di Ronco.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 1 Codes and sub-codes

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Di Ronco, A., Lavorgna, A. Changing representations of organized crime in the Italian press. Trends Organ Crim 21, 1–23 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-016-9270-7

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Keywords

  • Media analysis
  • Press representation
  • Organized crime
  • Mafia
  • Italy
  • mafia transplantation
  • alien conspiracy