What type of journalist are you? A fighter, a disc jockey, or a waiter?


“Nowadays, journalists are required to possess observation skills, an aptitude for social contacts and a passion for seeking the truth,” says Joanna Mikosz, a professor of journalism at the Department of Journalism and Social Communication at the University of Lodz.

Mikosz is the co-author, together with her colleague Professor Piotr Faka, of the English-language handbook “On Press Journalism and Communication” designed for journalism students in Poland and beyond.

In a country such as Poland, communism was up until a few decades ago a crucial factor in defining the practice of journalism. All journalists had to be affiliated to the communist party and social and political commitment was highly appreciated. “In the past any talented, creative and brave man was able to join the profession,” says Mikosz.

The free market has changed the dynamics of Polish journalism and the public has become more fragmented, too.

“Today, every skill can be of some use but nothing specific is necessary,” writes Mikosz, quoting the Polish media expert and political scientist Katarzyna Pokorna-Ignatowicz. “A press journalist should certainly have passion, but also something else. But how to explain what this ‘something’ is? You can be more beautiful, more brilliant, and more intelligent than others. On the other hand, you can be uglier and more stupid but work like a titan, or you can be insolent and a real pest. This is also a talent in journalism. That is why journalism is an open profession where actually everybody can be admitted,” she says.

After the end of communism, the media in Poland was in need of journalists preferably with no professional experience. “Media experience would have implied a link with the ancient régime,” Mikosz explains.

Warsaw, photo: Bkang83 (some rights reserved)

Journalism today: activism, business or entertainment?

If political control over the media in Poland has somewhat diminished since the fall of communism, corporate influence on the content has become proportional to the advertising income a news organisation needs to stay afloat.

Meanwhile, a whole new field of entertainment disguised as journalism has emerged.

Based on a classification devised by the Polish researcher Walery Pisarek, Mikosz proposes a set of characteristics defining the various types of journalists today: 

- the fighters, journalists “guided by a good cause”

- the disc jockeys, usually young men who work “in the gutter or sports press”

- the waiters, information collectors who prepare announcements for press conferences

- the information seekers, who obtain confidential business information and use it in their journalistic work in a practice bordering with industrial espionage

- the investigative journalists, who “build their prestige through publications and litigations filed against them as well as journalism prizes”

This portrait of journalism today, in Poland, but not only there, is not very encouraging for new journalists.

Headquarters of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, photo: FuturePastNow (some rights reserved)

Mikosz is particularly critical about the fact that some newspapers and magazines regularly publish outright insulting statements and try to cater the group of less sophisticated and demanding readers.

“A current trend shows the increasing brevity of thoughts and information, expressed in a nutshell so as not to ‘fatigue the reader’,” she writes.

“In our times, journalism is not only a social service, but also a business,” she adds. “There are probably few things that journalists would not do in their pursuit of readers.”

Although Mikosz’s views on the practice of journalism today reveal a very different approach from the past, they are not very reassuring for the status of the profession as a pillar of civil democracy.