OBITUARY:Ugo Stille

Ugo Stille brought the best traditions of American-style journalism to Italy, a country where more often than not his colleagues have failed to live up to their responsibilities to act as the government's watchdog.

Stille was one of the most famous Italian journalists of the last 50 years and one of the best editors of Italy's most authoritative newspaper, the Corriere della Sera of Milan. In Italy, he was recognised as the best of the Italian correspondents in the United States and a key point of reference for anyone wishing to understand that country.

In 1958, when he was first offered the post of editor of the Corriere della Sera, he chose to stay in the US. When the offer was made again, in 1987, he accepted it. In Italy, he fell in love with the country and with Milan, but his heart and soul remained in the US. After running the paper for five years, in 1992 he returned to his old post as the Corriere's New York correspondent.

He was born Mikhail (''Misha'') Kamenetzky in 1919, in Moscow. The name Ugo Stille was coined with a friend, Giame Pintor, when working on a student magazine at Rome University, and is based on a translating error of a verse by Rilke. After the revolution, the Kamenetzkys, who were Jewish, left Russia. At first they emigrated to Riga, in Latvia, where Stille's sister was born, and then to Italy. After Naples and Formia, the family settled in Rome.

In 1938, racial laws had been enacted in Italy and Jews were no longer allowed to work as journalists. Reluctantly, the Kamenetzkys obtained visas for the US. Misha Kamenetzky obtained his own visa only after the intercession of a young prelate, Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.

In New York, Kamenetzky was enlisted in the army, where he became a member of the PWB, the Psychological Warfare Branch. After the Allied landing in Sicily, he was put in charge of Radio Palermo, the first free radio station on the European mainland. "We were all young boys who'd grown up under Fascism, but we understood what democracy meant when we saw Sergeant Kamenetzky receive a colonel without removing his feet from his desk,'' recalled one of the former staffers at the radio station.

Radio Palermo moved with the Allies to Naples and Milan, where Kamenetzky was asked to work as a stringer for the Corriere della Sera when he returned to America. He decided to adopt his old pen-name in memory of his friend Pintor, who had been killed while fighting for the Resistance in 1943.

The first report by Ugo Stille appeared in the Corriere on 17 January 1946 and during the next half-century a visit to his office, first in the New York Times building, later in his home in Greenwich Village, was a must for any Italian intellectual, politician or writer in the US. His office was so full of papers, books and pipes that no one was surprised when it caught fire one day. Stille only worried about his precious books.

Stille was always on top of events, well in advance of diplomats and his colleagues. He even discovered that Trieste would be handed back to Italy before the Italian government was informed of the fact. He insisted his scoops were just the results of hard work and a simple technique: first you do your background research, then you ask the right person the right questions, giving the impression that you know more than you really do. If he confirms your hunches, you ask other people the same questions. And then you return to your first interlocutor. This way, claimed Stille, piece by piece, you put the whole puzzle together.

But, "I hate scoops," he said. "A news analysis is much better. It's much better to do some thinking."

When Ugo Stille became editor of the Corriere della Sera it was a very delicate moment for the newspaper, which had been severely discredited after its owners were involved in the scandal regarding the masonic lodge P2. Stille took it upon himself to rebuild the paper. ''The authority of a great newspaper,'' he wrote in his first editorial, ''its influence on national events, depend on its ability to be the nation's 'mirror', to reflect all of its components, to capture the diversified aspects of a pluralistic context, to perceive its changes."

Stille convinced some of Italy's most authoritative journalists to join the Corriere and hired some promising young reporters. Under his direction, the paper regained its credibility and its sales.

Wolfgang Achtner

Mikhail Kamenetzky (Ugo Stille), journalist: born Moscow 3 December 1919; Editor, Corriere della Sera 1987-92; married 1948 Elizabeth Bogert (died 1993; two children); died New York 2 June 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?