In the automotive whirlwind of information, where news accelerates like a supercar on a straight line, the role of a journalist is similar to precision drifting on a curve. It's the art of maintaining a balance between reliability and pace. In the next episode of our meet the media series, we talk to Katarzyna Frendl, a journalist, influencer, expert and automotive enthusiast.
What skills do you consider key for a journalist and how do you work to develop them?
Reliability – this is what I associate this profession with in the first place and this quality guides me during my work. Nowadays, due to the rapid or even immediate time of publication especially on the Internet – an important phase in writing materials, namely research, is skipped. I think this is a mistake, hence my materials show up later, but they are refined in every detail. It is equally important to provide information in such a way as to show it from other perspectives and sides, e.g. by including the positions of several companies in the industry rather than one, comparing a product to another of the same class, or quoting the statements of people whose opinions differ. The key is to draw conclusions based on the materials collected and your own knowledge. This is why I like the form of a column the most, where I can be tempted to make a subjective comment or opinion on a given topic. Over twenty years of gathering journalistic experience, I still excel in the ability to write in such a way that the reader wants to read the article to the end and to speak in such a way that I want to be listened to with interest. After reading the material or listening to the journalist, the recipient should be richer in interesting knowledge and be able to form his own opinion based on this.
What is the most important task of a journalist these days?
To reliably inform, to interestingly educate, to present facts instead of conjecture, to inspire the search for proven sources of knowledge. Reach where the average person does not have the opportunity to zoom in on phenomena, report on events in important detail, convey interesting nuances, draw thoughtful conclusions, create accurate, wise opinions.
How will AI affect the work of journalists 1 year from today?
AI will affect our work, indeed, although I wouldn't overestimate the possibilities too much. Those who resort to AI in their daily work need to be on guard, because a lot of information provided by, for example, ChatGPT is contradictory to the facts, untrue, or simply wrong. Every text that is produced there should be checked for not only the correctness of the Polish language with due diligence, but, above all, the knowledge contained. AI will certainly help those who do not have an "easy pen", or those who want to quickly acquire very vague knowledge on a given topic. However, the writing of detailed information on specific industries, and certainly the proper drawing of conclusions, or the inclusion of opinions in the article, should still lie with the journalist.
What do you think the ideal relationship between PR and journalism should look like?
An ideal relationship should be based on frequent contact with the journalist, declaring assistance and support in the creation of his materials, invitations to events related to the journalist's work/industry, i.e., the introduction of new products/services and the subsequent opportunity to test them. Prompt and specific answers to the journalist's questions are also important.
Complete the sentence: If I don't write, then...
I read, talk and discover the world.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a journalist?
Lack of time for proper research. Ignorance of the reader and viewer, unconstructive comments, fake news, ruthless propaganda bearing the hallmarks of greenwashing in specific environments (electromobility, fuels, oils, tires, air transport), unreflective copying of marketing-manipulated press releases, indoctrination with data from unreliable sources, reports based on wrong theses by design, surveys based on biased questions.
On the other hand, it is becoming increasingly difficult to live up to the expectations of being both a reliable, credible journalist and an influencer, of which social media is full, in one person. Youtubers, instagrammers, or tiktokers dealing with motoring are now treated on an equal footing, and sometimes even as more opinionated than a journalist publishing elaborate, thoughtful materials in the press or online, based on years of experience and acquired knowledge.
Tell us about your most important/most crazy/unpredictable topic you've covered?
The most important in my professional career turned out to be the first publication in the pages of Gazeta Wyborcza's “High Turns”, which “made me known” in the community as a journalist and contributor to a serious periodical. The article was about the history of the BMW 6 Series. Of the interesting journalistic challenges I can mention the technical material about the “Wolverine” vehicle for “Autotechnika Motoryzacyjna”, and the technological comparison of a motorcycle engine and a car engine on motocaina.pl. Currently important are all materials in which I wrestle (or editorially wrestle) with false reports, data, or opinions about electomobility, about which Poles still have, in my opinion, little knowledge.
What do you think the ideal vehicle of the future should have?
It should still provide the opportunity to feel the joy of driving, if the driver so desires. Wherever possible (that is, excluding combustion cars), it will be fully autonomous. It should also be 100% recyclable and emission-free – throughout its life cycle. The manufacturer of the ideal car should be part of the circular economy, report ESG and have a zero carbon footprint.
Tell us about the most exciting behind-the-wheel experience you've had in your journalism career.
It was exciting to drive behind the wheel: a Formula 1 on the Paul Ricard circuit, a “Wolverine” (and other military vehicles), a museum-quality Porsche 356 on the serpentine roads of California. Equally fascinating was the participation in the automotive week in Monterey (including the Pebble Beach elegance contest), the opportunity to participate in races at Laguna Seca, or testing BMW motorcycles in South Africa, driving the Audi A7 Sportback in the Panamericana and delighting in the Atacama desert – it is difficult to choose the most exciting experiences, and yet I can go on for a long time listing. I drove a Caterham long before the brand's importer appeared in Poland, at the Millbrook circuit in England, testing the new BP fuels. To complete the set of amazing experiences, I would also include a co-drive with Jan Kopecki in a Skoda Fabia S2000 and a 560-horsepower Ford Fiesta prepared for rallycross with Marcus Gronholm.
But what I enjoy just as much in my work is learning about new issues all the time, following the development of technology, being able to have direct contact with the people who make automotive history, driving on tracks around the world and having the opportunity to test cars produced there in limited numbers.
What major challenges do you see facing the automotive industry and what might be the consequences?
The challenge now is to live up to all the EC's expectations, to meet declared emission reduction targets and the so-called green deal, to motivate sub-suppliers with various tools (ESG reporting) to switch to more environmentally responsible operations, to change regarding the potential reduction in the extraction and exploitation of fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources, to shift the mentality of societies from the current comfort of car use to rational, ecological choices when buying more expensive cars, to properly justify and uncontroversially introduce clean transport zones in cities. May the consequence turn out to be that not only transport, which de facto accounts for about 20% of the world's CO2 emissions, but also other industries and fields, will implement similar measures to ultimately affect the well-being of our environment.
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