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At a time when the conduct and the ethics of the red-top press (and others) is under the lens of the Leveson inquiry, the British press is defending tabloids in the wake of the conviction of two of Stephen Lawrence's killers.

The Guardian published an editorial - taken up by PressGazette's blog - which praised the Daily Mail for its coverage (entirerly summerized by the Mail itself here), starting from the famous page one accusation back in 1997. "It did not simply keep the case in the public eye. It also became a national reprimand to the criminal justice and political system in a wider sense", the editorial said.

"The Daily Mail deserves credit for its courageous campaign", the Financial Times underlighted.
The Prime Minister David Cameron also praised the contribution of the "the campaigning journalism of the Daily Mail, which put this issue front and centre", Journalism.co.uk reported.

Going further Jonathan Freedland on the Guardian wrote a "defence of Britain's tabloid newspapers". Despite what some might expect, there's more than sleaze and celebrity in tabloids, Freedland said, citing as example the coverage of a Daily Mail copy picked at random ("Maybe that was not a typical day", he admitted) featuring stories about George Osborne, Picasso's etchings and the British embassy in Tehran.

"And it's not just the Mirror. It won't appeal to many Guardian readers, but Trevor Kavanagh writes serious, informed political commentary in the Sun, while it was the dreaded News of the World which revealed the Pakistani spot-fixing scandal, an important and wholly legitimate story", Freedland added.

Broadsheets should be more honest - the journalist continued - and admit that they do mix serious news with entertainment (in the guise of sport or sex feature "regularly in the Guardian's most viewed stories online") albeit in a less cheeky and loud way than the tabloids do.

Given that a key democratic value is spreading knowledge as widely as possible, Britain needs its popular press, now more than ever, he concluded.

Sources: Press Gazette, Guardian (1), (2), Daily Mail, Journalism.co.uk, Financial Times


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2012-01-04 14:16

"Is 2012 the year for India's internet?" asks the BBC News. It's estimated that as many as 121 million Indians are logged onto the internet. Even though this is a relatively small proportion of the country's 1.2 billion population, Internet use is predicted to grow and open the way for mobile, tablet and social networks diffusion.

In an interview on challenges.fr the president of French news site Médiapart Edwy Plenel talks about the success of the website after three years of its launch: more than €5m in revenue, up 66% year-on-year, net profit of €500,000 and 58,000 subscriptions which generate 95% of revenue. This success proves the effectiveness of the paid model, Plenel said.

After The New York Times raised its daily price to $2.50, Jeff Jarvis on the Huffington Post reflects on the increase wonders if, while today's Times is clearly a better product than the penny press a century ago, he wonders if it is worth 10x as much.

For more industry news please see WAN - IFRA's Executive News Service.


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Federica Cherubini

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2012-01-03 18:17

Some Italian newspapers could be at risk due to the cuts in state subsidies that the new technocrat government is planning to implement.

The Financial Times reported last week that about 100 titles are facing closure as Mario Monti's administration confirmed cuts in public subsidies for the press from €170m to €53m budgeted for next year. These had already been proposed by the previous government led by Silvio Berlusconi.

At risk are wellknown papers such the leftwing Liberazione, Il Manifesto and L'Unità, the former communist party daily founded by Antonio Gramsci in 1924 and the Catholic daily Avvenire.

Print publishers in Italy can benefit from direct as well as indirect subsidies. Indirect support includes VAT reductions and reduced postal and telephone rates. Direct subsidies are given to newspapers with at least two members of parliament among the owners or published by co-operatives of journalists.

Italian online-only paper Linkiesta recently explained how direct government financial assistance to the press has developed over recent decades.

As the article says, the first state subsidies to print publishers date back to 1981 when to benefit from the financial support, papers needed to be recognised as official organs of political parties. In 1987 however the law was changed so that to declare the party affiliation of a paper it was sufficient to have the support of just two parliament members. This system - the article continues - allowed the flourish of inexistent newspapers impossible even to be found at the newsstands. A 2001 reform introduced the possibility for publishing companies to transform themselves into cooperatives to also have access to the subsidies.

Among the example cited by the article there is the newspaper Libero, which in 2003 to benefit from the state subsidies - €5,371,000 as reported by Lettera43 - officially became the party organ of the Movimento Monarchico Italiano (the Italian Royal Movement), which has no parliament representation, committing itself to "represent the political line of the party".

In 2008 - Linkiesta continues - a new regulation cut direct subsidies tying their award to circulation and sales figures. This means that some publishers end up printing a huge number of copies just with an aim of reaching the threshold which allows them to get the subsidies.

Another example, cited also by the Financial Times article, of how the state subsidies drifted away from their original positive purpose is L'Avanti! - a self-proclaimed "socialist" title with limited circulation owned by Valter Lavitola, a long-time acquaintance of Berlusconi who is wanted by police on corruption charges.

In general, state subsidies can have positive impact on the news industry as they safeguard media pluralism and can help newspapers through difficult times.

On the other hand however, dependence on state support poses clear press freedom-related questions, as the line between financing and influencing could be very thin, and it risks vitiating the system by altering the market balance in comparison to newspapers which rely entirely on advertising and readership revenues. Liberazione for example, the FT noted, publishes only about 5,000 copies.

As reported by the FT, Monti said in a news conference on Thursday that his government would preserve some subsidies but establish "objective criteria" - as yet undefined - to decide who merits them.

A recent study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism which analysed public support for media across six developed democracies - Finland, France, Germany Italy, UK and US - showed that strategies for funding news organisations remained almost unchanged over the last decades and didn't keep up with the developments of the digital age.

In a time during which digital first strategies are gaining prominence at a global level in the newspaper industry this could be an opportunity for Italy to keep up with digital times.

Will subsidy cuts manage to weed out irrelevant support while sustaining deserving papers or will just they impoverish information pluralism?

Sources: Financial Times, the Guardian, Linkiesta, Editors Weblog, Lettera43
Infographic: Linkiesta


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2012-01-03 17:57

As normal workflows are restored after the Christmas breaj, Poynter has put together a list of stories published during the final weeks of December: "a quick guide to the media news you missed". Amongst them, Rupert Murdoch joining Twitter - here's a comment from the Guardian - and The New York Times selling 16 regional papers to Halifax Media.

Starting from today, Jan 1, the St. Petersburg Times becomes Tampa Bay Times, a press release published by Editor & Publisher announced. The name change reflects the wider regional identity the paper recently acquired as it has become the largest newspaper in Florida by growing its audience throughout the Tampa Bay region and three-quarters of Times readers live outside St. Petersburg, the release says.

"In 2011 cameraphones entered the mainstream of photojournalism", the Guardian says. Citizen participation now boasts a significant role in giving and sharing news from important events scenes from the Arab uprisings to Occupy protests. Newswires and major news media started publishing many more cameraphone and video images from both professional reporters and citizens, the article reported.

Good news for newspaper circulation from India. The India Times quoted the 55th Annual report of the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) saying that circulation in the country maintained its upward trend clocking a growth of over 8% in 2010-11 with regional language dailies accounting for a significant rise.

For more industry news please see WAN - IFRA's Executive News Service.


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Federica Cherubini

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2012-01-02 17:33

Timu is a Swahili word which means "team:" team being the core principle of the new platform the Italian <ahref Foundation recently launched.

Timu is a publishing platform for crowdsourced information and its main feature is to apply a common research method which is then recognised by a specific icon that websites and blogs can display in their homepage, to declare they are following that method.

The Timu hallmark is an assessment of a shared working methodology based on the core standards for high quality information: accuracy, impartiality, independence, legality.

This means providing accurate information, facts and data, being as impartial as possible, publishing a disclaimer for any possible conflict of interests involved in the article or in the subject of the article, acting in the shadow of legality and respecting fundamental liberties as well as privacy rights.

The hallmark is not a certification as it's self-awarded: like the Creative Commons license it is a gift to the readers because it qualifies a sense of responsibility based on a working method for producing quality information, as Luca De Biase, president of <ahref, wrote.

The idea of displaying this quality voluntary icon sparked a debate online and attracted some criticism. Some questioned whether this hallmark could work for bloggers as they are supposed to express their personal opinions and therefore they are not impartial.

The Editors Weblog spoke to Michele Kettmaier, General Manager of <ahref Foundation, who underlined that the Timu icon is not meant to be just for bloggers and not for all bloggers, but for anyone who is producing quality information online, following the guidelines of accurate reporting. It can appeal to bloggers and blogs when they do reporting.

This reflection is part of a wider debate about whether bloggers are journalists or not. Regardless of the specific opinion one might have about the topic, what is important in this context is the working method the writer is following, a declaration of the reliability and accountability of the published content.

The Timu icon, Kettmaier said, is not a rule and therefore no one could break it (as, for example, disregarding the announced quality principles). There is no external authority that can judge an eventual violation, it will be the online community to sanction it if necessary.

Timu is a civic media that, as part of the wider <ahref goals, aims to "promote best practices that provide access to the opportunities opened up by the social media information ecosystem".

It is also a first step toward a broader project regarding the concept of a social certification of the online credibility of users. To agree on a method of accurate reporting is a first move toward building your online credibility.

It could be beneficial for mainstream media, Kettmaier said, as it might encourage them to address the issues of quality reporting and learn from others who are providing quality information online.

Also this could be an opportunity for the entire information ecosystem: raising quality levels could prompt a virtuous circle of rising standards, leaving those that do not meet this level out of the conversation.

Sources: Timu, Blog De Biase (1), (2), Il Fatto Quotidiano, TagliaBlog, Indigeni Digitali


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-12-15 16:23

The newspaper industry is in a time of upheaval, with mainstream newspapers looking for innovative strategies to survive and thrive, to re-affirm their importance and their role in the news landscape.

Cost cutting is increasingly prevalent throughout news organisations in Europe and the US, with many publications putting more and more emphasis on digital products as they lose print readers.

Launching a new print publication in 2009 might have seemed therefore like a risky step, but it's exactly what Italian journalists Marco Travaglio, Antonio Padellaro and Peter Gomez decided to do. Il Fatto Quotidiano was launched in September 2009 and in the past two years it has managed to both establish itself as a respected newspaper brand and actually make some money, with a profit of €5.8 million in 2010.

How has it achieved this?
The story from the beginning: some dates and figures

Il Fatto Quotidiano - "The Daily Fact" - a daily printed paper published from Tuesday to Sunday, was launched on September 23, 2009. 150,000 copies of the first edition were printed, 32,000 of these being destined for subscribers.

This was a surprise given the fact that, as Editor-in-chief Antonio Padellaro wrote, the minimum target was fixed at around the 10/12,000 copies.

The printed launch was anticipated by a big online campaign through the blog Antefatto ("antecedent" but also "what comes before the fact"). In just three months, before the publication of even a single issue, the Il Fatto team managed to raise about €5 million through 30,000 pledged subscriptions.

During its first three months Il Fatto sold an average of 70,000 copies on top of its 43,000 subscriptions divided between printed and online PDF versions. After two years, according to ADS - the national Audit Bureau of Circulation - it managed to maintain the same average of sold copies, at around 70,000.

These two past years also saw the growth of Il Fatto's website ilfattoquotidiano.it, which was launched in June 2010 and hit record figures last August with an average of 370,000 unique users a day, according to the paper.

Strong points: what makes a difference

The Editors Weblog spoke to Editor-in-chief of online Peter Gomez who told us about the newspaper's strong points and goals.

Gomez said that thanks to its high visitor numbers, the website is aiming to become the third online newspaper in the Italian web news landscape, which, despite the recent appearance of some pure players, is mainly dominated by online versions of the mainstream printed newspapers.

At Il Fatto the print and online newsrooms are semi-integrated: all the nine online journalists have multimedia skills and write for the paper edition when necessary. This doesn't always happen on the contrary for the print journalists, however. The top printed articles are published also on the website but, unusually, they are published during the afternoon rather than the morning to mark a distinction of content from the paid PDF and printed version and the website.

The printed paper and the website are seen by readers as just one entity - Gomez explained - not just as duplicates of each other, but each as a complementary extension of the other.

The engagement of Il Fatto readers, who play a very active role in the newspaper's life, is most visible in the social media strategy, which has been strongly developed since the early beginning: Facebook above all others, but also on Twitter and YouTube, where the paper has a channel.

The most impressive figure is the number of Facebook fans: the page has 683,016 at the time of writing. The number is quite substantial compared to other international papers. Setting aside The New York Times, which has 1,863,950 fans, many popular papers have figures similar to the ones of The Guardian, which has a variety of pages on the social network and has 214,538 on its main page. (Italy does have a lot of Facebook users: the country is 11th in the ranking of Facebook penetration by country, according to Social Bakers.)

Readers are also engaged on the website where they get involved in discussions regarding articles through the comment sections. Inspired by the Huffington Post, the website has also an important number of blog contributors, whose writing is displayed on the left side of the website to mark the distinction from the news, which is on the right. The blogs help to stimulate discussion and the readers' involvement.

What the readers seem ultimately to reward is the paper's editorial line which is echoed in the title. In a media environment which is dominated by overtly partisan publications, the announced core basis of Il Fatto is giving the facts, "the simple facts" as Luca De Biase highlighted at the World Editors Forum in Vienna.

The secrets of success: why it makes a difference

"Credibility, independence, popularity".

Asked about what makes his paper different - in a market where 97,4% of the population still rely on TV as their main source of news and only 45,6% don't read newspapers at all (see Sintesi_rapcom_2011.pdf ) - Gomez answered that what readers appreciate most about Il Fatto is its credibility, directly related to its independence, which subsequently leads to its popularity.

"Credibility is the most important legacy a journalist has", he said. What drove the initial number of subscriptions was the strong personal credibility of the founders, a bunch of journalists, led by Marco Travaglio, Peter Gomez and Antonio Padellaro, who left their former jobs in journalism with the aim of creating a new, truly independent newspaper.

Newspapers ownership in Italy is often described as an anomaly because the "pure publishers" - the ones whose sole, or at least core, business is the news industry - are virtually non-existent, Gomez said. "The main shareholders of the Italian newspaper companies are businessmen involved in a lot of different industries, from bankers to building entrepreneurs and the risk is that the newspapers become just instruments of pressure".

The ownership structure of Il Fatto on the contrary doesn't allow any single shareholder to detain more than the 16,67% of the shareholding and therefore the existence of a majority shareholder. Also a statute clause states that every major decision regarding the editorial line couldn't be made without the approval of the journalists, some of those, as the founders, are also shareholders.

"This lack of independence," he added, "is seen by readers as a fundamental problem in the Italian news landscape. We managed to bring a section of the public who didn't trust the press as a reliable source of news, and who were getting their information from the web, to read and buy our paper".

As further proof of its independence, Il Fatto doesn't benefit of any form of state subsidy, as other Italian papers do. Il Fatto is financed just by sales and adverting, and in 2010 it brought in €29.6 million in revenue with a profit of €5.8 millions, as ItaliaOggi reported.

As well as credibility and independence, Il Fatto sees its ability to build a strong community around the publication as a major asset.

"We want Il Fatto not to be just a paper, but the meeting point of a community of free citizens" Editor-in-chief Padellaro wrote.

In fact, one of the paper's clearest achievements is having managed to create a strong and cohesive community. This focus on community echoes, to a certain extent, the attitude of Swedish daily Norran regarding its community. "Geography is dead" - said Editor-in-chief Anette Novak at the World Editors Forum in Vienna - "newspapers need to create an identity".

Il Fatto's community is not based on geographical affiliation but on a wider sense of belonging, people united by an identity and common political ideas, and a common sense of dissatisfaction of the current news and political state. The paper has become a symbol to help this community define itself.

Challenges for the future

This common sense of political affiliation brings us to one of the major criticisms the paper usually received: bias. Despite its independence from any political party, one of the central themes of the paper has always been its strong opposition to Silvio Berlusconi, who recently resigned as Prime Minister after almost 15 years on the political scene.

Marco Travaglio, one of Il Fatto's most famous journalists - with 1,102,427 fans on Facebook - is one of the strongest critics of Berlusconi and, more widely, of the problems facing Italian politics. As its detractors say, it will be interesting now to see how important the presence of Berlusconi was for the paper - will it survive without this key point of focus?

Another potential threat to Il Fatto is that it is not doing anything particularly innovative in terms of digital delivery or story-telling techniques. The paper's in-depth investigative stories, often related to court cases ("cronaca giudiziaria" in Italian) are definitely valuable public interest journalism, but will this be enough to tackle the challenges posed by the digital age?

Italy's internet penetration is currently low compared to the rest of Europe, but this is likely to change in coming years and the paper may need to develop a more forward-thinking digital strategy.

Sources: Il Fatto Quotidiano (1), (2), (3), (4 - via Senato.it) ADS, ItaliaOggi, SocialBakers,
Internet users as percentage of population via Google public data explorer


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-12-07 12:47

Samuel Laurent, political journalist at LeMonde.fr talked about real-time fact checking today at "Les Nouvelles Pratiques du Journalisme" conference, hosted by the Ecole de Journalisme de Sciences Po, Paris, in collaboration with the Columbia Journalism School.

Fact-checking in real time - verifying the truth of statements made by politicians and public figures in real time during press conferences or public appearances - is becoming an important part of political communication nowadays, says Laurent.

The fact-checking in France, even if it's not completely developed, is growing. And it fits in with the Anglo-Saxon tradition of news watchdogging.

Real-time fact-checking has to be extremely fast to be effective. "You have to react immediately," Laurent says, "because a fact-check published one week after the statement doesn't have the same impact".

It's an ambitious job: it requires speed but, at the same time, enough knowledge to be able to contextualise statements. It demands the ability to provide the right link at the right moment. At lemonde.fr, a team of four journalists works on a real-time fact checking event: one's writing, one is dedicated to the community management and the other two to the contextualisation.

Fact-checkers must go deep before and after the event. Journalists need to be specialists of their subject matter and be well prepared. They have to be extremely wary and work in depth before the event as well as after.

"Fact-checking is not math, though," clarified Laurent, "it requires taking risks and acting in a fast environment".

The audience is also part of the fact-checking process at lemonde.fr. The blog Les Décodeurs asks the audience to participate and engage in the conversation. They can submit questions or suggest corrections.


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-12-02 17:03

The pan-Arab news network al-Jazeera is launching its Balkans operation that is expected to reconnect people divided by the wars in the former Yugoslavia and offer them new perspectives of each other, as reported on the Guardian.

The Guardian's removal of share prices from the financial pages is the focus of the paper's readers' editor Chris Elliott, who answers readers' comments about the decision.

What should next generation authors be reading? The Columbia Journalism Review asked their favourite journalists and critics for a suggestion and edited this list.

Not only for text, but also for pictures, a certain kind of editing could hide a form of censorship. In article on Culture Visuelle, Patrick Peccatte analyses the editing process of a war image.

For more industry news please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-11-14 20:34

It's a matter of fact that Twitter has become part of the regular news workflow. And this is also the case for mainstream media outlets.

But how do they really use it? And how often? What's their underlying strategy? Is Twitter used by traditional media as a self-promotional channel for their own links or has it become a real, independent reporting tool?

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs answered these and other questions in a study that analysed the relationship between 13 major U.S. news outlets and Twitter.

It emerged from the study that news organizations mainly use Twitter for auto-referral. In fact, their use is primarily limited to disseminating their own material, rather than developing real engagement with followers or adding to the general debate by sharing external content.

The research examined more than 3,600 tweets over the course of a typical news week (February 14th - 20th 2011). It looked at tweets from each outlet's main newsroom Twitter account, as well as tweets by journalists working for these outlets. The study analysed both reporters with the largest number of followers and niche reporters. In order to observe how niche reporters use Twitter, the researchers examined a health reporter at each organization, as, according to the study, health was one of the most consistent beats across these news sites.

The study analyzed six newspapers, five broadcasters and two websites.

What emerged from the study then is that, even though usage among some of the major US news outlets varies, generally there's a lack of proper interactivity. News outlets concentrate on driving traffic back to their own websites, meaning that they fail to create a two-way communication flow or to stimulate online debate. In fact, 93% of tweets on main news accounts just link to content published on their own websites while only 1% link to other news sites and 2% asked input from the audience.

The use of the retweet - sharing someone else's tweet - is also limited, according to the survey. Retweeting is an activity which implies "curation and recommendation"; it enriches the discourse by sharing different sources and widening the debate. It also has the merit of incorporating different sources, including citizen journalists and eyewitnesses of particular events, into the news flow. This was proved by the work of NPR's Andy Carvin - cited also in the study - whose recent, widely-praised efforts, were focused on curating and diffusing information on Twitter from the uprisings in the Arab World. But despite this, retweeting accounts for just the 9% of the tweets analysed.

When it came to individual reporters' tweets, it emerged that, on average, health reporters tweet less than the most-followed media personalities at major US news outlets. However, at the same time, their use of twitter is more interactive and engaging. According to the study, they use Twitter to gather information 6% of the time, twice as much as the most-followed personalities did (3%).

Source: Pew Research Center


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-11-14 16:48

As often underlined, there's a battle out there for news sites to find a way to stand out of the hullabaloo of the web, reach a wider audience, attract more readers and stay profitable.

In the race, social networking and bookmarking sites are playing an essential role. As it was recently reported, in fact, the boundaries between social media and news are increasingly thinner.

A recent survey in the UK analysed data on the links from twelve UK newspaper web sites to see how visible they are on social networks. The study, conducted by Searchmetrics, analysed how often content from the 12 leading newspaper sites in the UK was shared on six popular social networking and bookmarking sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Delicious and Google+.

According to a press release, Dailymail.co.uk led the list of 'most visible,' followed by Guardian.co.uk. Figures for the Dailymail.co.uk said that links to its pages have being shared 2,908,779 times a week on average while Guardian.co.uk followed with an average 2,587,258 links. These two sites are the most read UK news sites.

The study is a confirmation of how news and articles shared and recommended by friends and followers are important as sources of traffic for online news sites.

As previously established by a Pew Center study that analysed online news reading habits in the US, the trend is moving from "searching for news to sharing news." That research showed that direct traffic to news websites accounts for 60 - 65% of the total, while traffic from links (the referred traffic) makes up 35 - 40%. Also, the study revealed that while Google was still the top source of traffic to top news sites (accounting for 30%), Facebook was growing and seemed likely to catch up.

Going back to the Searchmetrics study, CEO Dr Horst Joepen commented, as quoted in the press release: "It's worth noting that search engines, such as Google and Bing are starting to include popularity on social networks as a factor when judging the quality of web pages and how they should be ranked in search listings. So it's important for news and other web sites to build and monitor visibility on social sites if they want to rank highly and attract visitors via search".

Interestingly, analysing the spread of social networks on which newspaper's pages were shared over a six month period, StumpleUpon emerged as an increasingly popular social bookmarking site. The analysis of the Dailymail.co.uk's pages shared, revealed that the site received over half of its links (50.78 per cent) on StumbleUpon, with Facebook activity (likes, shares and comments) accounting for 45.87 per cent and links on Twitter 3.21 per cent.

These figures seems to go in the direction of confirming what, as previously reported last August, StumbleUpon's founder Garrett Camp claimed that is that his site was driving more than half of all social media referral traffic in the US.

Regardless of which network is accounting for the highest figures, the growing role of social media in news reading is unquestionable and the game is all still to play for.

Sources: press release, Editors Weblog (1), (2)


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-11-10 16:39

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