A New Direction…

I have a little piece of good news to share with you which will explain why, for the next year, I won’t be posting so often on this blog,  I am the newly-elected President of the Foreign Press Association in Italy (Associazione della Stampa Estera in Italia www.stampaestera.org), the biggest foreign press association in the world with nearly 400 journalists from 54 different countries. The numbers are no surprise, I guess, given that Rome is a pretty plum posting.  Those who get assigned to Rome tend to stay, others, like me, come to Italy for different reasons and do not leave.

Caffè Faraglia in Piazza Venezia from Stampa Estera Archives

On the 17th of February 1912, 14 journalists from six countries founded the Foreign Press Association at the Caffe’ Faraglia in Rome’s Piazza Venezia. 

Early members, unfortunately I believe the women are the wives, not journalists. From the Stampa Estera Archive

Back then journalism was a less frenetic activity, no internet, no smartphones, no email just the telegraph, but they had plenty of news. To put it into historical perspective, it was a few months before the sinking of the Titanic, Italy still had a King, Victor Emmanuel III, and there was a Prime Minister named Giovanni Giolitti (nothing to do with the now famous Giolitti Gelateria near the Italian parliament).

Old Stampa Estera Press Pass. Photo from Stampa Estera Archive

Italy was involved in the Italo-Turkish war as they tried to wrest parts of Libya from the Ottoman Empire.  In 1912 a young socialist activist named Benito Mussolini took over as head of the party newspaper “Avanti”.   I wonder if those 14 journalists at the Caffe Faraglia had any idea what was coming.

In 2019 journalists working in Rome have plenty to cover as well.  We are following a fractious coalition government of the populist Five Star Movement and the right-wing League, whose leaders have trouble agreeing on most issues.  Across the Tiber, the roller-coaster papacy of Pope Francis keeps many of us busy. We are witnessing and narrating the rise of populism in Europe, extremism, Brexit, racism, terrorism, migration, climate change, natural disasters, and economic fluctuations.

Handover ceremony from former board to new board with from left to right Janko Petrovec (Slovenia), Gianfranco Nitti (Italian), Esma Çakir (Turkish), Constanze Reuscher (German), Trisha Thomas (American), Alredo Tesio (Italian), Maarten Van Aalderen (Dutch), Regina Krieger (German), Megan Williams (Canadian), Eliana Loza (Venezuelan) Gustav Hofer (Italian), Yossi bar (Israeli), Gavin Jones (British), Rossend Domenech (Spanish)

We also often have the pleasure of some lighter stories in a country steeped in history and art: This year is the 500th anniversary of Leonardo Da Vinci’s death with all the accompanying exhibitions and events, for example. For some correspondents there is the Venice Film Festival and Milan Fashion to follow, others follow questions of food, something fundamental in Italy, where pasta, prosciutto, mozzarella, and wine production are news stories.  As a result, our association has committees that seek out stories and events related to culture, food, and cinema.

Not to be misleading, I should add that it is not always peaches and cream, peace and love at the Stampa Estera. Inevitably, if you throw 400 competitive, ambitious journalists from different cultures, customs, and ethical standards into the same pot, there are bound to be some misapprehensions. And sometimes I wonder as I pass through the glass door entrance at Via Dell’ Umilta’ 83/c (translated: Humility Street) whether I am wandering into a fancy palazzo in the historic part of Rome filled with a group of international intellectuals or into a viper’s nest.

In its 107-year history there have only been five women presidents, including me.  I am also the first mother to serve as president.  The women who have preceded me are all top journalists from around the world, Ann-Marie Kjellander (Sweden), Marcelle Padovani (France), Valentina Alazraki (Mexico), and last year Esma Cakir (Turkey). 

Esma Çakir, Turkish journalist and former President of the Foreign Press Association in Italy. Credit: Riccardo De Luca

Esma deserves great credit for the recent renaissance at the association.  With her energy, determination and team spirit, the Stampa Estera has become a focal point in Rome with government ministers regularly giving press conferences along with prominent institutional and cultural figures, briefings and social events every day. My first press conference as President this past week was with the Mayor of Venice speaking about the new day-tripper’s tax.

P.S. In case my bosses read this, it is a huge honor to have been elected President of the Stampa Estera but it is an unpaid position, so my primary responsibilities are still my job with Associated Press.

41 thoughts on “A New Direction…”

  1. Congratulations Trisha, Finally recognized for the exceptional job you do. Actually, jobs – as journalist and as mother. Your blogs will be greatly missed. So pleased that my son, Greg, connected me to your blogs.

    Wishing you much success and happiness. Looking forward to future entries, whenever you are able to do so.


    1. Trisha Thomas

      Thank you Jeanne — how wonderful to be the mother of the marvelous Greg White! And I have also met your truly talented and charming granddaughter.

  2. Tirsha!!! Woohoo!!!! I heard this news from your mother, whom I saw briefly a few weeks ago, and am so thrilled for you – and for them. Your creative mind will surely move this organization forward in some great directions. I’ve been glad to see how both PBS NewsHour and CNN have been expanding their definition of news, to include (PBS) a great deal about the arts, about non-profits, and about third world development. Sam de Fred Lazzaro does some truly amazing journalistic work for them in that regard. And the historical questions you’ve raised have caught my interest – I’d love to read about what reporters saw/though about the young Mussolini. Not about the steps he made to become dictator, but about the ways people plugged into him, or were worried.
    The constant stream of refugees, reshaping the world, and caught in ongoing tragedies, and the frequent outbreaks of white supremacy and its ugly lies, and the data scholars have collected about who joins hate groups, are all subjects that need to be covered. So maybe if you can’t write to us yourself, you can bring us some guest posts? By people who are covering these things?
    Meanwhile, I hope you are celebrating with some good wine and meals out with friends, and savoring the joy of your achievement! Hugs and love and blessings, Nancy

    1. Trisha Thomas

      Thank you Nancy. There are so many interesting events going on at the Stampa Estera, if you come to Rome, I will invite you to some. This week we have a professor talking about the Silk Road Initiative and Italy’s decision to sign a Memo of Understanding with China letting the Chinese make a major investment in the port of Trieste, something the US has been opposing vigorously. This is ahead of the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Italy from March 21-24. We will also have a historian speaking about his new book “Mussolini also did some Good Things: The idiocies that continue to circulate on Fascism” ahead of the March 23rd 100th anniversary of the birth of fascism in Italy.

  3. Roger Widness

    Molto bene, Trisha! Congratulations. Will still look for an occasional blog,
    hopefully with some insights from being in the eye of Europe’s “diversity storm.”
    Good luck with your new, extra responsibilities.

    1. Trisha Thomas

      Thank you so much Roger. I will try to blog once in awhile but first I need to get a grip on these new challenges.

  4. Hi Trisha,
    Congratulations on your new position. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for the past couple of years. We are preparing our own move to Rome this year. I’ve really enjoyed your take on the Mozzarella Mommas and the news.

  5. Joan Schmelzle

    Hi Trisha,
    First, congratulations on your new position. Second I will certainly miss reading your blog, but understand how busy you will be. Third good luck with your group; I’m sure you’ll do a great job as you have with the Associated press and your blog. I look forward to whatever you have time to write!
    A Presto and grazie mille,

    1. Trisha Thomas

      Thank you Joan, you have been one of my most loyal followers and I have always appreciated reading your comments. I will try to do posts once in awhile but, if the first week is any indication, it is going to be very busy.

  6. Congratulations on such a spectacular honor! I’m sure you will leave your stamp on “Stampa Estera”. This job is perfect for someone like you who is a smart negotiator and keeps her cool with challenging people. We wish you all the best!

    1. Trisha Thomas

      I definitely need to concentrate on the “keeping my cool” part. I should take some lessons from you– the super-cool doctor. How do you deliver multiple babies a night, often with complications, on no sleep?? Tell me you secrets!
      Certainly some of the challenges my children have given me have been good preparation.

  7. Congratulations Trisha and wish you all the very best. Mommas are great at multitasking and I am sure you will manage this new role along with your job perfectly.

    1. Trisha Thomas

      Thank you so much. I think a lot of my mothering skills are going to come in handy….breaking up fights, assigning tasks, refusing to listen to whining, making enless to-do lists… to name a few.

  8. Kathleen Botsford

    Congratulations Trisha! Your blog has provided your unique point of view in Italy and especially in Rome which is so intriguing for a Catholic Momma. I have enjoyed your family stories as well as your take on the Papacy and politics. Good Luck! We will miss you!

    1. Trisha Thomas

      Thank you so much Kathleen. I hope not to give it up entirely because it has been so useful for me to let off steam and to keep a diary of what I am doing both personally and professionally. You have been a very loyal reader and I appreciate that.

  9. Wow, congratulations Trisha, on a well deserved honor. I don’t know how you manage to do it all, but if anyone can, it’s you. I ‘ll miss reading your blog now that you’ve got added responsibilities, but I hope to connect next time I’m in Rome.

    1. Trisha Thomas

      Thank you Linda — well you must connect the next time you in Rome and I will take you to lunch at the Foreign Press Association! Hopefully I will be able to continue with a little blogging. I do enjoy it.

  10. Brava! I wish you the best in this new venture. Selfishly, I will miss reading your blog as often. I will look forward to reading it when you get a chance.

  11. Kathy from Australia

    Trisha this is brilliant news!!! Congratulations – such a well deserved appointment.
    I haven’t been to Rome since we last caught up for the coffee in Antico Caffe Greco – what a treat that was! Hope you and the children are all well and hope to see you back in Rome again one day.

    1. Trisha Thomas

      Hi Kathy — Thank you. You must come back to Rome soon. Next time I will treat you to lunch at the Foreign Press Association. Baci

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *