Wojciech Surmacz (PAP President): After the pandemic, digital media has become the primary source of information. The widespread use of 5G technology will fully show the power of new media.
PAP works extensively to find new ways in which to counter disinformation, and its management believes that this is one of the key roles of news agencies. Wojciech Surmacz, the president of PAP, considers that the future of news agencies will be marked by tech developments and also by very necessary investments in human resources.
Which were the main challenges for PAP during the Covid-19 crisis?
First of all, the fight against disinformation about the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Today, hardly anyone remembers that the WHO, along with the declaration of the pandemic, also announced an infodemic – the fake news avalanche of an unprecedented intensity on a global scale. In my opinion, the infodemic has had a much greater impact on our lives than the pandemic. The lack of real, reliable information about the coronavirus destabilised the largest economies in the world.
What were the main steps taken in PAP for generating stability in a changing environment?
We have internally implemented procedures that allow journalists to work safely. About 80 percent of our team has been delegated to home office. The rest worked in a rotation-based system - shifts - so that they would not see and meet each other. We also organised a backup newsroom in a completely different place. So that in the case of an infection or a coronavirus outbreak at the headquarters of PAP, workflow would be maintained while the workplaces were disinfected.
When it comes to external action, we have focused on fighting disinformation by supporting our clients and the entire media market in Poland.
Among our clients, we have launched a special, paid information campaign on reliable information about the coronavirus. You have to remember that media outlets have a problem with the outflow of advertisers. Therefore, any financial support from PAP was very important to them. In addition, all clients who applied to PAP for discounts, due to the pandemic, received them. As part of the fight against the infodemic, PAP also launched an open coronavirus service, which was made available to all media that are not clients of the agency. And this free of charge service still functions now.
During the pandemic, PAP launched and implemented a special tool to fight disinformation - the #FakeHunter application. This is an absolutely innovative, systemic approach that engages the online community in the fight against fake news. It is worth emphasising that this is an open source solution. Any agency that would like to use it can take the key for free and develop something according to its own concept.
How do you see the role of news agencies, public, state or private-owned, during this type of medical crisis?
I believe that all agencies, regardless of the form of ownership, are playing a key role in this type of crisis. We should constitute the basis for reliable and credible information.
How much room for optimism is there regarding the future of news agencies?
It depends on the direction of the agency's development. If these directions are towards new technologies and broadly understood data analysis, I have no doubt that news agencies will do a great job.
Can you foresee the future of Polish media after the pandemic? Which would be PAP’s strategy for the post-pandemic period?
I think that not only in Poland, after the pandemic, digital media has become the primary source of information. But only the widespread use of 5G technology will fully show the power of new media. PAP's strategy for this time? Investments in development that I mentioned in my answer to the previous question and investments in people. Because even the best and most modern technological solutions will not replace good and professional journalists.
Interview by Alexandru Giboi (EANA Secretary General) for the "EANA Top Voices" project.