by Alberto Casti, editor of the magazine Bolina and the nautical information portal Upwind 2.

A famous Italian sailor recently told me that after setting a record in the Pacific Ocean, he was contacted by an authoritative English magazine: his feat deserved the cover of the upcoming issue. 'Yay', he thought, until he was offered to honour a 3,000 euro fee!
It sounds absurd, and yet it is so. And if this happens where there is big name and sporting success, it is easy to imagine what happens where the news, as is often the case, is not even there and is fabricated in order to present the public with yet another 'buying tip'.
This is the way of the world unfortunately, and not only in the nautical sector. Journalists have turned from 'watchdogs of power' into wordsmiths bent on the logic of marketing.
Now, far be it from us to play the wiseguys and champions of information: the stakes are not as high in the nautical sphere as in politics or economics, where a single piece of news could (the conditional is a must) generate dissent, cause a stock market crash or even decide the fate of a government.

In our environment, the climate is certainly more relaxed, but one should still strive to remain above market logic, that is, to do serious journalism as far as the subject allows. It would be enough not to limit oneself to publishing integrally and uncritically what is released by the press offices, not to align oneself a priori with trade associations or sports federations, but to read, interpret and transcribe the facts for the reader. In other words, contextualising them historically, verifying the source, investigating them in depth and possibly even feeling entitled to challenge certain positions.
If information is flattened downwards, it is our cultural heritage that suffers: we focus on the superfluous and lose sight of the substance, with the result that even memory will sooner or later become clouded. And this in yachting is to the detriment not only of knowledge and historical traditions, but also of safety, i.e. of the actual awareness of those who take to the sea measuring themselves against the elements and unknowns that sailing presents.

Like it or not, and with all its limitations, the press is the only tool after the school, capable of disseminating and promoting culture. This through traditional newspapers, radio, TV, web, newsletters, social media, etc. A world without the much denigrated professional communicators would be without history, hence without prospects for progress, because it is only those who record and investigate facts that elevate events to a historically relevant moment.

My idealistic romanticism, however, clashes with an objective reality made up of underpaid professionals, amateurs on the run and publishers who dictate rules conditioned by pressure from the strong powers. At the basis of this subservient relationship are the capital allocations granted by private individuals in exchange for adequate visibility (and support). So while on the one hand journalism has maintained if not even increased its media reach, on the other it has been reduced to disseminating mediocre content with the double effect of bringing the profession into disrepute and renouncing what should be its sole objective: to report the facts, as we used to say.

But a way to convey valid information still exists and must still exist, starting with identifying the professionals who are the bearers of certain content. It is one thing to learn how to do a downing from a Youtuber, quite another to rely on a sailing instructor in the flesh. And even here, the substance changes whether the instructor is a young man at his first experience in a sailing school, or a skipper who has logged thousands of miles. In short, what must not be lacking is a compass, which from my point of view should be represented first and foremost by the specialised press, which should be the interlocutor and spokesperson for the general public. Of course, this requires a disinterested approach.

A Bolina Over the years we have been called 'Taliban', 'extremists', 'extremists', 'a magazine for the poor', just because we have always refused to publish paid editorials. And we have never understood the dynamic whereby the marketing offices wanted us to say what they said, forcing us to debase our role as communicators and, worse still, to progressively make our magazine lose its authority. Because this is what happens to a magazine that mainly publishes marquees: it becomes a catalogue; beautiful, glossy, full of full-page photos, but basically devoid of content. There are advertising spaces, you will say, are they not enough? No. Even today, we still receive requests for quotes to publish paid articles, proposals that we automatically reject.

And this rigour has cost us a lot in terms of economic support to the point that, despite being the sector magazine with the highest sales in Italy, in December 2022 we had to give up publishing the printed edition, in favour of more promising online communication platforms under the Bolina.it.
And it is not merely for our own benefit that we in our own small way, like many other realities in Italy, continue to strive to be there. And the same goes for those who do sailing, training, sports and social promotion, for maritime museums, for cultural associations, for those who write books and their publishers. No one has ever gotten rich from these activities, yet they resist because they are aware of the values they stand for.

That is why, despite the difficulties, we, like other professionals, pull straight with Bolina 2 that will be our 'library of Alexandria', our archive of digitised content that will grow more and more and will remain, we hope, for as long as possible, available to those who go to sea.
Be that as it may, the important thing is to learn to be critical, to distinguish the authentic from the bluff, and to call masters who really deserve that title.
Good wind!

Alberto Casti: Born in Milan in 1971, but transplanted to Rome where he graduated in Philosophy of Language and then specialised in Communication Sciences, he has been a journalist since 1997, a professional since 2001 and since 2005 editor of the monthly nautical magazine Bolina. In 2020 he founded the publishing house Casti Publisher and in 2022 moved the historic sailing publication to digital by increasing information on the web, developing thematic newsletters and creating Upwind 2, an in-depth portal for subscribers enriched daily with new and archive articles. Besides sailing, writing and publishing, he cultivates interests in ecology, rock music, graphic illustration, oriental disciplines and personal growth.