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Matteo Scanni, the Teacher Who Did Not Want School Children

The first day you told us about Joan Didion. I still have the notes. You invited us to read his articles paying attention to his “slow approach” to writing, to his “subjective point of view bordering on the autobiography,” to his “love for details,” to his attention to “form and language.”

Dear Matteo, many teachers meet, but only time shows who the masters were. You have been a teacher to me. You had to get in tune with your way of teaching. In that two-year Master of Journalism at the Catholic University, we were a nice heterogeneous group. We came from all over Italy.

We were of different ages. And we all, more or less, expected to be zealous, to move to assigned tasks, to schedules. We expected to be told what to do and how to do it, step by step.

But it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like that at all. At first, I felt disoriented. But then I realized that it was an extraordinary opportunity because you didn’t want schoolchildren.

You allowed us to be adults, an experience that is often completely new to us. You approached me as an equal to other people who shared a passion for a profession. You didn’t let your experience weigh on us. You were shy, in my opinion, even a little shy. You didn’t talk much.

In an age of speech, it could be difficult to extract the sentence necessary to understand the result you wanted us to achieve with an article, an interview, a video investigation.

It happened that this exasperated us. Because it was rare that I was happy. You expected a lot. Very very much. But that indisposition of yours was the sign of the respect you brought us. Also, for this, I thank you. Because you never let us take the shortcut.

Sometimes in the morning, when I checked my email, I would find a link that you sent us. They were almost always long articles from US newspapers. I’ve always read them all from the first to the last word.

And I’m glad I did. I remember when you went into the office some mornings. With the dark jacket pulled up to the cheeks, fair hair, and glasses. You would walk past our rows of computers and say, “Hi.” You had a calm step, never intrusive. You knew how to be simple.

You were amused by the paradoxes. One day I was preparing an article about a Barbie exhibition at Mudec. Together we found the expression: “more ecumenical than the hamburger.” And you laughed. How you laughed, squinting and throwing your head back a little. You taught us to look at things and to listen to them.

To always find that extra question. Not to stop at the surface. «Magzine,» the online publication of the Master, was a force of freedom and ingenuity. And it was you who allowed it, welcoming our ideas, valuing our inclinations, encouraging us to deepen our curiosities.

“That is a world,” you said, when behind a story, perhaps apparently small and negligible, a vast, unsuspected, challenging panorama opened up. You wanted us to take up the challenge.

Let us explore that world far and wide. You were looking behind the doors, under the carpets. You were careful, and you wanted us to be careful. You used to train us to keep the antennas straight. To be able to see where journalism is going. You wanted us on the border.

An outpost of a “new generation of reporters,” eager for “different points of view” and happy to venture between “different registers.” I have certainly disappointed you sometimes. You have let me down just now by leaving so soon.

One day you were showing us some photographs on the wall behind you. I followed what you said. But at the same time, I kept tapping on the computer keys for a while to finish. You told me to stop it. I am stubborn and went on. But you were right.

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