"It is rather rare to get a master's degree in journalism and work in this profession for a dozen years. I have managed to do so. Instead, an enduring fascination with technology gives me wild satisfaction in this work every day,” says Tomasz Popielaczyk, Antyweb.pl.
What skills do you consider key for a journalist and how do you work to develop them?
Being able to convey information in a concise and accessible manner to the audience is more important today than ever. Readers prefer more and more concise forms, which requires a bit of linguistic eccentricity and a lot of mental shortcuts. Well, and don't forget about the inviting title - headlines have always played a key role and it's no different today. In view of this, it is necessary to nurture creativity, as well as to have an adequate vocabulary to be able to use the Polish language like an instrument when performing on stage, if necessary.
Of course, we also need to open up to new forms all the time. Video, podcasts and similar formats have not and will not supplant written news, but they are so popular that it is hard to imagine a journalist in 2023 not using them.
What is the most important task of a journalist these days?
Pointing out to the audience what is important. We are flooded from all sides with content, and the big online platforms are fighting like lions for our attention. In this world, a journalist should be such a curator (or perhaps a "filterer") of content - a person who selects the most interesting topics from this river of content, and then elaborates on them for his readers/viewers/listeners in a reliable and factual way.
At the same time, a journalist should not be afraid of any topic if he finds it relevant and important to the audience. It's increasingly rare, and today it's needed especially strongly, to write about what someone may not want to be written about. In this way (and only in this way) the media can act as an industry controller and promote the interest and protect the consumer. However, this is a rather idealistic picture, as there are few such industry media today.
How will AI affect the work of journalists 1 year from today?
It can definitely speed up the work, help with editing and proofreading. It will also be a great inspirer, and perhaps a tool for quick and efficient research (which is something to be careful with...). Thanks to AI, the creation of materials can be much faster, which will make – either more materials will be created, or... fewer people will be needed in editorial offices.
I certainly wouldn't fear that AI will replace journalists. Human emotions matter too much in this profession, and artificial intelligence (yet) doesn't deal with them very well. Instead, it can strongly support and automate the creative process. However, the key here will still be the human beings who use these tools.
What do you think the ideal relationship between PR and journalism should look like?
The ideal PR-journalist relationship is one in which the journalist is inquisitive, curious and asks questions (including uncomfortable ones), and the PR is responsive, well-informed and understands the rules of editorial.
All too often we see Polish PR delivering news late, once all the information has appeared abroad. The slow response time is also a problem – getting a statement/statement on a topic within a few hours still borders on the miraculous, and speed is crucial in media work today. Quotes added to articles 2-3 days after publication are no longer read by anyone.
A big problem is also the lack of mutual understanding. A journalist wants his article to "click" as much as possible and reach the widest possible audience. So he touches on such topics that, in his opinion, have the best chance of doing so. If your press release is not among them, it is not the result of ill will – it was simply of little interest to the medium.
Complete the sentence: If I don't write, then...
...I probably answer emails. Mail is like a black hole where you can spend half a day and not know afterwards how it happened. In my spare time, on the other hand, I devour books and games wholesale – preferably those with an epic, elaborate and multithreaded plot.
What major challenges do you see ahead for the technology industry and what might be their consequences?
Tabloidization. We are observing a very unpleasant trend, in which technological media (and not only, by the way) are losing themselves in the pursuit of as many clicks as possible. Of course - this is a very important aspect in any editorial. Nevertheless, recently we have seen a veritable plague of flashy headlines that scare, lie and create unnecessary emotions. So-called "clickbaits" are heavily abused.
Another problem is the glass ceiling that every large technology site will hit sooner or later in terms of traffic. That's when the search begins for new categories that can be expanded to include topics to bring in new audiences. Until recently it was entertainment and everything related to VOD, movies and series. Then came the fashion for militaries, which, as a result of the war in Ukraine, became an extremely well-read topic.
Unfortunately, this is taking a turn for the worse, as it is sometimes easier to find a picture of some Polish politician than a smartphone on the main pages of sites calling themselves "technological".
What are your goals as a journalist and how would you like to influence society through your work?
This may sound a bit high-minded, but I would like to see electronics manufacturers put sustainability first. That their actions should be oriented towards fighting climate change – but a real one, not just one that looks nice on information brochures.
Nevertheless, the topic affects us all. So I would be happy if my work would make people make more informed purchasing choices and replace products less often with newer ones without a clear need (and instead take care of, optimize and regularly maintain the ones they already own – so that they serve them for as long as possible).
Working in the media is a big responsibility with words. We can use them to frighten and lie to the public in the name of clickability of our materials. But we can also educate people, point out potential dangers (without sowing panic – it can be done), draw attention to important issues, screen the actions of Big-techs. The point is simply to be on the side of readers. Even if those people can sometimes give a hard time in the comments.
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