Q&A with Co-Founder and CEO of Outriders, Jakub Górnicki

We had the opportunity to speak with Jakub Górnicki, co-founder and CEO of Outriders on our Instagram Live hosted by our 2021 award winner Marina Shupac about “What makes a great multimedia story”. Under Górnicki, Outriders has created highly interactive multimedia stories. His interactive piece, Visa to Nowhere, tells the journey of Syrian and Iraqi refugees arriving in Europe via Belarus and has been longlisted for our 2022 Digital Media Award. These are some highlights from the conversation. The full conversation is available on IGTV.

 

What motivated you to set up Outriders?

Events that happen in one country can influence the politics of another. We are currently seeing that events in Ukraine are changing politics in Germany, of the European Union, changing politics of NATO. In many cases, these issues are not foreign. They can be equally important as a political crisis in your own country. 

A more realistic reason was that we really like to do multimedia stories. We just wanted to create a place that will allow it. We don’t do stories in a conventional way and we rarely do articles. We wanted to create a place that will allow us also to play around with the form, which we find important, in a way that actually engages the reader and gives them value. 

 

Can you explain a little bit about your decision-making process of how you decide which format works for a story?

We do an initial outline and then we see what kind of materials we have because in most cases, everything changes after we see what we have. Simply putting too much pressure initially on a script is frustrating later on because it rarely works out. So, we’re more flexible, to allow reporters, or whoever works with us on the production, to bring us the materials based on the general outline of what they want and then we assess. Apart from the writing and photos, you also need to do the coding, animation, and data visualisation.  

 

What makes a great multimedia story?

“A story is great as long as it serves the audience.”

I assess the story, usually by the feedback from the audience. Whether they liked something, whether something shocked them, whether something left them with some kind of emotion. We’re not producing this for us.

The second thing is: are we as reporters happy as the people who created the story? I see many multimedia projects that are stuck because they only think about the form. I like a story that makes people excited when they write it.  We’re not like 19th-century writers who produce just for the shelf. Nor are we artists, although a lot of artistic methods are used in multimedia stories. We simply became too focused on the form because you want to find new technology because you want to try something new. 

And these days, a good multimedia story has to work very well on the mobile phone. That’s something we were actually struggling a lot with because when we started, most of our traffic was desktop-based. Right now we’re thinking about how to optimise for a mobile phone, and this is something everyone has to do.

 

Can you please elaborate a little bit more about solutions journalism, which is very much at the heart of outriders.

We are huge fans of solutions journalism because it restores balance. A lot of journalism is negative.  War, pain, death, a crisis. But I believe the job of a journalist is to make society stronger. And if you only report negativity, in the long term, you are actually weakening democracy as crazy as it sounds. If you constantly report on corruption scandals and bloodshed in politics, what are readers supposed to think? Why would they believe in democracy? Independent journalists are very much an institution of democracy. I’m not saying you cannot report on the bad stuff, I’m saying we should know how to balance the number of stories they make. A solution journalist follows a rigorous method that allows you to constructively report on working things in society. It is not being positive. It’s more like applying journalistic research to something which worked. You leave the reader with some kind of hope. It’s more constructive and this is why I’m a huge fan of social journalism.

 

Jakub’s advice for early-career journalists:

  1. Don’t get too caught up by the form or tech of a story, focus on the potential impact.
  2. Promote your story for at least half of the time it took you to produce it. Distribution is just as important as production. 
  3. You should balance what the audience wants with what you think is important when choosing a story. Your role as a journalist is to provide context and inform the public.