admin On ottobre - 29 - 2012




by Chiara Spagnoli

Andrea Marinelli, a promising Italian journalist pursues his quest: accomplish the coverage of 2012’s US Presidential Elections State-to.State. His greatest allies have been crowdfunding, hitchhiking and CouchSurfing.

The entire chronicle, initially reported on his blog, has become a self-published book “L’Ospite: Pullman, divani e autostop all’inseguimento delle elezioni americane” (“The guest – bus, sofas, and hitchhiking in pursuit of the American elections”) available on Amazon.

When and why did you come up with the idea of this adventure?

I wanted to follow the Presidential Primary Elections, but none of the newspapers I wrote for was willing to pay the travel cost. So I went to Iowa with my own money: I took a room in a Motel 6, close to the airport for $39 per night, and a flight to Des Moines for $400. In the course of 4 days I spent all I had. So I decided to skip the second stop, New Hampshire. While I was waiting for the results of New Hampshire I realised I didn’t want to stay at home watching what was going on, I really wanted to be where it was happening. But first I had to find a solution to the problems that I would have encountered each step of the way. So I came up with the idea of CouchSurfing and traveling by greyhound, further on, when I was completely broke, hitchhiking came up, as well as crowdfunding.

What was your first stop and what came next?

Des Moines, Iowa, was the first place I visited from January 1st until the 4th. Eventually I visited 15 States (Iowa, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Alabama, Puerto Rico, Illinois, Louisiana).

Which of your interviewees surprised you the most?

As a member of the foreign press it is practically impossible to approach candidates or their entourage. An article in an Italian newspaper is beyond their concern. It often occurred that non-American journalists were left out of important events because there wasn’t enough space to fit everyone. But one night I was in Denver, trying to go to a meeting held by Rick Sanctorum. It was snowing hard and I couldn’t get a cab. After many attempts I gave up and decided to go and eat something at Whole Foods. When I got out I decided to try one last time and I incredibly managed to find a taxi. I made it to the meeting just in time. I started speaking to the people in the audience and I got to know an Italian-American called Tom, who worked at the election campaign of Sanctorum. He was the one who introduced me to him at the end of the meeting. “Senator, he is a paisà,” is what he told him. An hour before I was about to give up going. The following day Santorum won three primary elections, he became the man of the day and I had my interview in hand.

How was the CouchSurfing experience…did you have any strange encounter?

It was overwhelming. I hadn’t tried CouchSurfing before. I’m so glad I did, because without this experience I would have come across a different kind of America, probably more impersonal. When journalists travel they live in a kind of bubble. In my case I was amongst the people, and this was the strength of my journey and of course of the book. Every couch you land on sets a new relationship that needs to be established with your hosts: one must conquer their trust and vice-versa. Once in South Carolina, at the end of a very long day’s work, after a meeting with Gingrich in a naval air station, I was having dinner with some Italian colleagues. After dinner they returned to the hotel to rest, whilst I had to join my hosts at a club. When you’re CouchSurfing hosts usually don’t leave you their house keys. That evening was a Friday night and the people guesting me wanted to go out dancing. We came back at 4 in the morning and the following day I was up again at 7am to go to work.










What was the general response when you told the people you met what you were doing?

Generally people were amazed and thrilled. Both my CouchSurfing hosts and the colleagues I met travelling. Some colleagues are rather sceptical on CouchSurfing, but if you’re used to having a newspaper paying for the travel expenses it’s hard to understand.

What was your feeling of the American people’s way of living the elections?

Most people weren’t interested in primary elections. It was like a big circus: all animals  (journalists and politicians) were under the big top . When you leave the circus you don’t see giraffes in the streets, and the same is what came about in that occasion. Once I went out, there were never polling signs, except for some leaflets of the several candidates scattered all over the place in people’s gardens.

Are there any reporters who inspire you?

This is a hard question to reply to. I believe that inspirations evolve through time. When I started working I followed some journalists with great passion, which eventually faded away, whilst others got the upper hand over them. Besides when you’re new to this job you get influenced by those around you, which serve you as an example day by day. But once I read an amusing book by David Randall, a British journalist of The Independent. It was called “The Great Reporters”, which reported the story of thirteen journalists who had been determining in the history of the press. The stories were very enthralling, with the allure of a distant era. Amongst these I recall the one of William Howard Russel, the first war correspondent (on the Crimean War). I think that in order to return to quality journalism one would have to be inspired by these reporters and their method of the last century. Without doubt journalists of today have to exploit the internet and all means of communication, but without neglecting all the precious details that can be grasped by the  eyes.

Now that the journey has ended successfully with a publication where do you go from here?

I hope to find my dream job! In this historical moment times are tough for newspapers, but I long to find someone willing to make me report this country (America). Alternatively I’ll come up with a new adventure!

The book will be presented in New York City at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò of NYU along with the screening of Beppe Severgnini’s “Portland2Portland – A Political Journey Across America”.









These are the details:

OCTOBER 30, 2012, 6pm

Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò – New York University – 24 West 12th Street


Portland2Portland: A Political Train Journey Across America

(Atlantico-Pacifico, 2012, 102′)

In Italian w/ English subtitles

Directed by Andrea Salvadore

With: Beppe Severgnini and Karl Hoffmann


From June 4 to June 22, 2012, Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini and German journalist Karl Hoffmann travelled from Portland (ME) to Portland (OR), cutting across 18 states to discover the political reality of the United States.

Andrea Salvadore and Beppe Severgnini will be present to discuss the film, together with journalist Andrea Marinelli (author of L’Ospite: Pullman, divani e autostop all’inseguimento delle elezioni americane).




Related Images:


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.