Category: Journalism

Inside North Korea with Imma Vitelli

By Samantha Chang, NYU Florence student

On September 20th La Pietra Dialogues hosted journalist and international correspondent for Vanity Fair Italy Imma Vitelli, who recounted her daring journey into the most isolated and authoritarian state on the planet: North Korea.

One of the most inaccessible places in the world, the government has very strict regulations on the admittance of foreigners. Very few reporters have been granted access to visit the country and witness conditions on the ground, especially with the recent increase in international tensions.

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Malaysian Political Cartoonist Zunar Banned from Travelling Outside of Malaysia

Malaysian Political Cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, otherwise known as Zunar, has been banned from travelling outside of Malaysia since October of last year. Zunar was arrested by Malaysian police on December 17 at a public book promotion event in Kuala Lumpur. He was detained and interrogated before being released and 1,000 copies of his books were confiscated. He faces potential charges of “undermining parliamentary democracy” in addition to standing charges of sedition, which carry a possible sentence of 43 years in prison, for publicly insulting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in his cartoons.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on the Malaysian government to drop all criminal charges again Zunar and to stop harassing him in what they call a “relentless campaign of judicial and police harassment of the journalist“.

On World Press Freedom Day, May 3, The Washington Post spotlighted Zunar’s plight along with two other persecuted cartoonists, “On World Press Freedom Day, the plights of three persecuted cartoonists deserve a spotlight“.

Zunar gave the talk “Cartooning in Malaysia: The Art of Protest” at NYU Florence in September 2015, followed by a cartoon-drawing workshop for students.

You can watch Zunar’s full Dialogue here:

A Conversation with Imma Vitelli on the Situation in Syria

The day following Imma Vitelli’s eye opening dialogue titled The Death of Aleppo: A City Under Siege NYU Florence student Victoria Cece interviewed the international correspondent for Vanity Fair Italia outside of Villa Sassetti. The evening’s dialogue concerned the Siege of Aleppo, elaborating on the atrocities that are being committed there. It left the audience astounded, some in tears. Imma was able to vividly explain the toll that the current situation is taking on the civilian population, including women and children.

To discover more of Imma Vitelli’s meaningful journalistic contributions, please visit her Vanity Fair Italy blog column Io Sono Qui (


Writer Jennifer Clement at La Pietra for a Writing Workshop and Dialogue

Award-wining writer Jennifer Clement will be on campus this week to offer a writing workshop to NYU Florence students and to participate in a Dialogue about her work. Clement’s highly acclaimed novels Widow Basquiat, about the life and artistry of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Prayers for the Stolen, which explores the experience of girls who are victims of human trafficking by Mexican drug cartels, are available in the Ulivi Library and the LPD student space for students.

Clement is currently working on a book titled Gun Love, which will examine gun culture in the United States and the traffic in guns between the U.S. and Mexico.

Clement is the president of PEN International, the main organization of Poets, Essayists and Novelists, the first woman elected to the position. She is also an alumni of NYU.

Check out an article written by LPD alumni (Fall ’14) Joshua St. Clair about Clement’s 2014 Dialogue at NYU Florence “So Far From God”, Dina Juan (LPD 2014-2015)’s piece “A Freshman’s Take on the Dialogue with Jennifer Clement” and watch the video of her talk Walking in the Bones of Shadows: The Experience of Writing Prayers for the Stolen.

Join Jennifer Clement for her Writing Workshop tomorrow Tuesday, October 11 at 12pm in Villa Sassetti and for her Dialogue on Thursday, October 13 at 6pm in Villa Sassetti. Rsvp at

Citizen Journalists: Reporting from the Capital of ISIS

Abdel Aziz al-Hamza and Hussam Alissa join Imma Vitelli at Villa Sassetti on April 6 at 6 p.m. for the last of Vitelli’s Craft Talks on Journalism, “Citizen Journalists: Reporting from the Capital of ISIS.” Al-Hamza and Alissa are two of around 17 Syrian activists who helped found Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (R.B.S.S.) in April 2014, an underground citizen journalist group based in Raqqa, a city in northern Syria that has become the capital of ISIS. R.B.S.S. works to document life in Raqqa and has captured evidence of crucifixions, beheadings, sexual abuse and other violent acts. It serves as a source of information for the foreign press who are unable to have reporters on the ground in Raqqa. Read more

Alessandro Penso

The upcoming dialogue on April 18th, The Lost Generation, will discuss the numerous phases of the European welcome of refugees as documented by photographer Alessandro Penso. Penso studied clinical psychology at Rome’s La Sapienza University and photojournalism at the Scuola Romana di Fotografia. His deep dedication to social issues is reflected in his decision to focus on the issue of immigration in the Mediterranean in recent years. Penso’s experience witnessing an attack on a group of migrants in Corinth, Greece when young man, Mostafa, was hit by a car has continued to motivate him to redouble his efforts in raising awareness and combating the issue of injustice at Europe’s margins.

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Imma Vitelli Shares her Interviewing Secrets

“The Interview is the Pillar of Your House.”

A story is more than facts and events. A story is how those facts and events have influenced human beings. When Imma Vitelli, a foreign correspondent for Vanity Fair Italy, spoke to NYU Florence students on March 2 2016 she described a story that was more than facts. Vitelli covered a devastating earthquake that hit the small Italian town of San Felice. Her colleagues were quick to report the facts and move on, but Vitelli believed that left out a vital element. She interviewed a pharmacist who had lost his shop in the earthquake. When Vitelli asked what he would miss most, he replied that he would miss the blackbird who lived in the clocktower and chirped every morning. Her piece of journalistic advice: One should speak to locals, or those directly involved in the story, because that is where the true story is. Facts are easy to find, but the emotion which brings the story alive can only be found through interviews. Read more

Imma Vitelli, the Arab Spring, and Bjorn

It was nine years of working freelance journalism before Imma Vitelli says she landed her dream job as war correspondent for Vanity Fair Italy. Imma is, without a doubt, whip smart, extremely talented, and fully dedicated to her pursuit of the truth. In addition to her position as war correspondent, she also keeps  two blogs  on the Vanity Fair and Marie Claire websites. Both are introspective in nature, as blogs often are, and reflect the personal experiences of Imma and the many people that she has encountered, as well her own opinions and interpretations of events in the world today. The most recent update of ‘Io sono qui’, or I am Here, hosted by Vanity Fair, was written in honor of the anniversary of the Arab Spring, and in it Imma struggles to overcome her reluctance to revisit what was such a promising moment and which has since turned into such disappointment: “Le rivoluzioni falliscono poiché in Medio Oriente vige una legge, maledetta, una legge che stabilisce che tutto ciò che può andar male, va male” (“Revolutions fail because in the Middle East one accursed law reigns: Whatever can go wrong, goes wrong”). ‘Cronache baldanzose di vite diverse’, or Careless Chronicles of Different Lives, Marie Claire’s blog, ran her most recent piece marveling at the beauty of a small Norwegian town and the wonder of dreams and a lovely Hopen man named Bjorn. And in those two vastly different pieces it is possible to recognize and appreciate the breadth of Imma’s work and dedication. 

Craft Talks: Two Sides to The Story

Who’s someone that’s pissed you off?

It’s easy to come to terms with something that’s upset you: you rationalize what happened by making a one-sided judgement of that person, and then walk away and forget about it. That is of course, until you’re forced to interact with that person again. Then, no matter what they say or do, your image of them will hardly ever change.

Imagine this happening on a grander scale. Take for example, a dissatisfied anti-immigrants group and a new year’s debacle. Put one and one together, and you’ve got the story from Cologne, Germany.

At Imma Vitelli’s writing workshop, we heard the real story of what happened in Cologne, re-learning what most five year olds do at school, but this time, internalizing it: there are always two sides of the story.