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Future of journalism series: Jaroslaw Kurski - Gazeta Wyborcza

Future of journalism series: Jaroslaw Kurski - Gazeta Wyborcza

The Editors Weblog is running a series of exclusive interviews about the future of journalism with top editors at leading newspapers around the world. Here is the latest installment with Jaroslaw Kurski, first deputy editor-in-chief, Gazeta Wyborcza in Poland.

The list of upcoming interviews will be updated as they are published (click here to view all interviews in this series). Among the other titles that have been asked to participate in these interviews are:

- The New York Times - Jonathan Landman (US)
- Financial Times (UK)
- Guardian (UK)
- Washington Post - Jim Brady (US)
- Globe & Mail - Ed Greenspon (Canada)
- The Times (UK)
- The Economist (UK)
- Gazeta Wyborcza - Jaroslaw Kurski (Poland)
- Le Monde (France)
- Die Welt (Germany)
- The Hindustan Times - Pankaj Paul (India)
- Asahi Shimbun (Japan)
- JoongAng Ilbo (South Korea)
- The Age / Fairfax - Mike van Niekerk (Australia)
- The Nation - Pana Janviroj (Thailand)
- Punch (Nigeria)
- El Tiempo (Colombia)
- Clarin (Argentina)
- Gulf News - Abdul Hamid Ahmad (UAE)

Questions: "News, journalism, newspapers: same past, different futures?"

1. How long do you think you will define your company as a newspaper company or a print company?

We stopped being a newspaper-only company in 1993 when we launched our first internet discussion board. Today we have millions of boards. Our web portal website Gazeta.pl reaches now 6 million unique users per month. It is a magic figure, as it is also the total number of readers of the printed edition of Gazeta Wyborcza.

We started our company in 1989 with a newspaper, but today we are one of the leading multimedia companies in Central and Eastern Europe. We publish newspapers, magazines and books, we run networks of radio stations and an outdoor company.

And we strongly invest in digital media. Our board has an ambition that in three years time more than half of our revenues will come from other sources than print. Until now all our websites reach 44 per cent of internet users in Poland. This is an extraordinary outcome for a newspaper publisher like us.

2. At this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, a panel of futurists claimed that print newspapers wouldn't exist by 2014. To what extent do you agree with this?

Futurists like bold predictions, but as a journalist I prefer to look at facts.

Since 2003 there have been seven new national printed daily newspapers launched in Poland. So we faced a new competitor every single year. Is this rush any sign of weakness of the printed medium?

I believe that as long as we have something important to say and people here care to listen to us and talk with us, Gazeta Wyborcza will exist. The message is important, and the dialogue; and not the channel.

If print becomes irrelevant, we will spread our ideas in any other way. Newspapers will not die, they will change.

Last but not least: a Polish word for a newspaper - "gazeta" - does not have any "paper" in it. So even if futurists are right and print newspapers will disappear, Gazeta will remain.

3. In journalism's multi-centennial history, do you view the emergence of digital journalism as part of the continuity, or as a complete breakaway with previous forms of journalism?

Journalism is about intelligible conveying of news and about telling stories of importance that move the community. I appreciate digital tools, they are great and helpful, but they are tools only. You still need a story, a teller and a community. So has anything really changed in journalism?

4. Do you believe in the increasingly active role of the user in the news process, and is it a threat or an opportunity for professional journalists?

This active role is more than welcome. Let me give you some recent examples from Gazeta Wyborcza.

Since 1996 we have been reviewing maternity wards in Polish hospitals; we wished to improve a quality of healthcare in our country. We could have sent there 100 journalists, but a single mother - who really gave birth in any hospital - can tell you more than reporters. So we asked young mothers for help. In 1996 we got 2000 (two thousand) letters by post. In 2006, thanks to the internet, we gathered 40 000 (forty thousand) personal reviews. We were able to review 423 or 96 % of all hospitals in Poland. We would not be able to do this without our readers.

When we recently reported a huge migration of Poles to the Western European countries after Poland joined the EU in 2004 - we asked readers for help. Hundreds joined our reporting effort.
When we called for saving Rospuda, a wild river in North-Eastern Poland that was sentenced to death by the government - we asked readers for support and thousands marched in the streets, hundreds protested on the spot.

When we discussed a crisis in pensions system - we asked readers for advice and published the best investing guides ever.

We see interaction with readers not as a column of letters on page number 86. It is about inviting readers to play a crucial part in the editorial process.

5. Do you consider the Golden Age of investigative journalism is already past, or just beginning?

Investigative journalism is a core of our editorial practice and as our world and lives become more complex, I see the need for this kind of public service rising.

We live in the world flooded with information, but it is served in bites, so many bites, that it is getting harder and harder to see the whole picture. We need wise journalists to solve this puzzle.
We live in the world of instant news, but it is often reaching only the surface of problems and challenges that we face. We need great journalits to show what was NOT on TV and the net. We need to understand what really happened.

We live in the world influenced more and more by professional public relations; it changes the way politics is done. We need clever journalists to see what's behind the curtain, to ask the hard questions, to watch hands of those in power.

We live in the world of global economy and large corporations that affect people's lifes and business. We need investigative journalists to provide us all with reliable information to make better decisions.

On Monday (March 10) we broke an exclusive news about a Catholic priest who reportedly sexually abused young boys and about three bishops who - although informed and alerted about the abuses - have been reluctant to investigate the case for 13 years! We publish Gazeta Wyborcza also to uncover stories like this.

Thanks to Kurski for sharing his views. And stay tuned for the next interviews in our series.



Jean Yves Chainon


2008-03-25 10:39

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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