Gorkana meets...Jakub Krupa, London Correspondent for the Polish Press Agency.
You joined the team of the Polish Press Agency earlier this year. Tell us a bit about your role of London Correspondent and about the newswire.
Polish Press Agency (PAP) is the largest press agency in Poland, widely used by all major newspapers, magazines, websites, as well as public institutions and major investors. Most of my articles and reports get printed or published online by leading news publications, making it the best place to work at if you want to report on a foreign country to a wide group of Poles.
I’m responsible for pretty much everything with particular focus on politics (the EU renegotiation), culture and obviously the 850,000-strong Polish community, which is the largest national non-British community in the UK.
The Polish Press Agency has a strong code of Polish journalism; it’s something that keeps the tradition of old good Polish journalism alive. For example the famous Polish non-fiction writer, Ryszard Kapuscinski, whose book is just behind us in this cafe, was a correspondent for the Polish Press Agency for over 50 years. Whenever I do something terribly wrong, my editor can say ‘Oh, Kapuscinski would never do that’. (laughs)
But that’s a good thing, there is a strong ethos of work at the Polish Press Agency. It’s brilliant to have masters. There are still few editors who worked with Kapuscinski, that are still active and edit our articles.
You studied European studies. What has attracted you to journalism?
It is a general rule that I’ve been told at the Polish Press Agency and in all papers I worked for: if you want to be a journalist, do not study journalism. For me, someone interested in politics and society issues, European studies were the perfect choice for having a broad perspective on how things in Europe work.
There is a lot of poor understanding, both in the UK and in Poland, about how the EU works – and it’s really useful to be able to grasp all the nuances and technicalities of the EU when I’m reporting on Europe. Also a lot of my work is about explaining Poland’s position and what is happening in Poland to British audiences – whether during a panel discussion, or a TV/radio broadcast.
A fantastic example is the immigration debate in this country. I remember there was a large debate about immigration but the organisers mixed up immigrants from the EU, outside the EU and refugees into one-fits-all term ‘migrant’. There is a lot of work for someone who wants to do responsible journalism about showing that’s not the same, there’s three different terms, operating in three different legal frameworks.
You have experience both as a freelancer and in in-house positions. Which form of work do you prefer?
Freelance is amazing because you can do absolutely different assignments one after another. There was a period of time when I was writing about sports, Greek referendum and Moldovan crisis. (laughs)
At the same time, however, when you are an in-house permanent in London like I’m now, it requires you to build your own network of people and some sort of discipline to read papers 6am every morning just to make sure you are ahead of the game. So I think, for your creativity, being a freelancer is amazing, for your discipline and to format yourself as an experienced journalist, it is good to be in-house.
How do you use social media for your work?
I use it a lot (@JakubKrupa), it helps enormously keeping you ahead of the game and up-to-date on all things, globally, all the time.
But it’s also a fantastic tool for networking. I remember being in Greece for the referendum in July this year, in a press centre. Every few minutes I’d meet someone and we’d go “oh, we follow each other on Twitter”.
I also use Twitter for my research. When I was working on a big story for the Polish Press Agency about the rise of popularity of the Polish food in the UK, I asked a question on Twitter about British experiences with Polish cuisine. I got literally hundreds of different answers from people who were completely British, had never been to Poland, but had tried this and that or were regularly buying something of Polish food. At some point they started discussing between themselves what’s the best Polish restaurant in London! (laughs).
How can PRs help with content?
First of all, they can stop flooding my inbox in the morning. I think that’s the worst thing when I wake up at 6am for a press review, I open my mailbox and I have already 50 messages. No, I won’t read that unless there is something extremely interesting. What’s really important to keep in mind is that as a foreign correspondent you can’t cover all the stories. For this thing to be helpful, it needs to be contextualised so that you can use it. Someone sent me a comment of an Italian professor of politics about the Polish elections - brilliant, I can use it. It’s clearly to me because it’s about Poland.
If you’re sending me something about opening of something in West Midlands, that’s not going to happen unless it’s strictly connected to Poland or strategically important for the UK. Not that I have anything against West Midlands – you just need to keep in mind that as foreign correspondents we can write only a few stories a day in which we have to cover the most important topic of the day in the UK.
How and when is the best way for PRs to contact you?
Email, definitely email. I think the best time to contact me is 9 to 11 in the morning when I’m done with my press review and with my first batch of emails but I can still do something more. I think that’s the best time of the day. I’m not a great fan of PR people calling me but if there is a really great story, that’s fine – but again, please make sure it’s relevant.
You started your career as a journalist more than eight years ago. What’s the most memorable story you’ve worked on over that period?
I really enjoyed the Scottish and the Catalan referendum last year that I covered for the leading Polish economic daily Puls Biznesu. At the same time there was a wonderful story of emerging national pride contrasted with institutional, political constraints. Same with this year’s Greek referendum. When I was going there everyone was talking about Athens as if it was a war zone on the brink of humanitarian crisis. Then I landed there, and realised that many of the tourists didn’t even know about the vote...
In line with the Polish school of non-fiction writing, I like to write my reports combining individual stories and socio-political background. Get the facts straight, make it clear, but also give the story a face, a name. Make sure your readers – even if they know barely anything about this particular topic – can connect with or relate to what you’re writing about.
That’s what journalism is about, after all, isn’t it?
Jakub Krupa was talking to Gorkana's Beata Marchewa