‘Eye On Poland’: all this week on CNN

CNN decided to dedicate a week of coverage to Poland, which according to the network is “one of the fastest developing nations, with a proud history and a promising future”.

The Network’s daily schedule is scattered with live broadcasts from Warsaw, where Fionnuala Sweeney reads news from some cool places: the Chopin monument, the Palace of Culture, and Solidarity Avenue. These will be accompanied by reports on various issues connected with Poland. With each day dedicated to a specific core issue:

Oct. 6 – Poland: A New Era Begins: On Monday we will find out why CNN thinks Poland is becoming more strategically important on the global stage.
Oct. 7 –
Poland: Booming Business:
On Tuesday CNN took a look at Polish business as the zloty strengthens against the dollar, and sought answers to how Poland has brought about this changing business dynamic. There will also be a report on Poland’s real estate market, which CNN says is “ninth in the world”.
Oct. 8 –
Poland: Strategic Ties:
On Wednesday the network will research Poland’s international allegiances, standing and strategy for the future.
Oct. 9 – Poland: Springs to Life:
On Thursday CNN will seek out what defines Poland culturally (sounds promising this one).
Oct. 10 – Poland by the Poles: ON Friday CNN will talk to the people in Poland and find out what they think.
Oct. 11-12:
On Saturday and Sunday the week will be rounded up in a half-hour special “Eye on Poland: Country at the Crossroads.”

Also some current events are being given an extra “Polish” flavour. For instance when I tuned to CNN today, the increasing recession in the United Kingdom was the theme, and was pictured with stories of Poles, who were recently relocating to the British Isles in large numbers. Now some of them are thinking of returning.

Details about the programming and videos are available on the CNN website http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2008/news/eye.on.poland/

CNN seems to be well prepared for the job, and to have done some thorough research. I think, as a Polish person, what I have seen up to now is the most accurate representation of Poland and the Polish out of everything that I have seen in the Old EU and US media. It shows Poland similarly to how I see it living here. The people CNN talks to are people I could know. Like these:

Comparing ‘Eye On Poland’ to the BBC’s Michael Palin’s series ‘New Europe’, I think CNN has done a much better job. CNN concentrates on urban life, economy, business and things people can relate to. Palin showed “those Eastern countries” as something exotic, and concentrated on peasant life and oddities. The way he presented Poland and neighbouring countries (maybe subconsciously) reflected the power relations, and cultural superiority perceived by some in the Western parts of the continent. Similarly a Polish tv crew could go to rural England to find Old odd toothless fisherman doing something strange. Show Britain through this perspective. It can be done, but won’t quite show what’s really going on.

One thing that bugs me in ‘Eye On Poland’ is the constant reference to Poland as “Eastern European” which sounds really outdated. One could say that when Europe was divided into two blocks East and West with the iron curtain. Now, when it’s long gone a quick look at the map of Europe must reveal the simple fact that Poland is at the very centre of Europe. How is that Eastern then? If the bigwigs at CNN read this (how could they not, right?:) ) when people have some misconceptions, you don’t necessarily have to reinforce them.

Here’s an example of CNN work: a story about Sopot, one of the renowned Polish spa towns and a fashionable summer resort:

Antonia Mortensen (who in the Polish version of the clip introduces herself as Antonia Mortensen-Żeromska), encourages you to send in your video stories

Have you seen any of the segments dedicated to Poland? What are your impressions of CNN’s ‘Eye On Poland’?

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40 thoughts on “‘Eye On Poland’: all this week on CNN

  1. island1 says:

    Very interesting.

    In some ways it’s nice to see Poland being treated as a proper ‘grown up’ country by CNN, but in other ways I find it incredibly depressing to see the place reduced to a few quotes from yuppies in suits talking about how wonderful it is that you can buy Armani in Poland now.

  2. Pawel says:

    Island1, CNN has done few more stories, it’s not just the yuppies in suits:>
    There’s this story about Sopot as the summer capital of Poland (I’m adding this to the post), or about Solaris, a Poznan-based company producing busses etc.

    I think what’s important is that CNN sends a message of how life looks like here. That Poland has modernised, has a lot of potential, many pleasant places to be. I know these are some simple pictures, but that’s just to point to some things and let people get interested and find out more about Poland on their own.

    I know many people in the UK or the Netherlands who imagine this country still as it could have been in the 80s. And as much as I sympathise with your appetite for anthopological/sociological approach, I think CNN has a method here.

    To be frank, most people aren’t interested in more than making money, spending money and having fun. :)

  3. Robert says:

    They have done quite well. It should be understood that it is a quid pro quo for a large advertising spend as I understand it. Probably money well spent.

  4. Pawel says:

    You hit the nail here. Both side get some benefits tho:) Polish towns and companies got some special discounts for advertising, while CNN has something to talk about and an extra source of $$$.

  5. Pawel says:

    BTW. Kraków didn’t want to spend some $$$ for adverts, and in the end did not get any coverage.


    Quite rightly so, there are other and more interesting places, which are not yet as known as Kraków.

  6. kate theobaldy says:

    “One thing that bugs me in ‘Eye On Poland’ is the constant reference to Poland as “Eastern European”.

    One thing I find anything from slightly amusing to mindlessly dull (depending on my mood) are the constant complaints that Poland isn’t in “Eastern Europe”.

    If you divide Europe in just four parts designated by the point of the compass, there’s no arguing with the fact that like it or not, Poland sits squarely in the East. Of course, if you assume that there is a fifth part called “Central Europe”, then there is a case for placing Poland in it, it’s simply a matter of how large the center is as opposed to the fringes, right? Generously defined, Central Europe can be anything between, say, Oostende to Lwow and Copenhagen to Florence.

    Still, you never seem to hear people from Belgium, Denmark or Northern Italy protest that they are actually “Central Europeans”. Looks like being “East” is still some sort of stigma Poland desperately wants to get rid of.

  7. some dude says:

    Because it is stigma! And it’s incorrect from the cultural point of view. Eastern Europe is Orthodox and uses cyrilic scripture, Western Europe is protestant/catholic and uses Latin alphabet.

  8. boris says:

    Stigma? Everyone knows Orthodoxy and Cyrilic script is the bomb!

  9. Jacek Wesołowski says:

    That’s the problem, nobody wants to be nuked.

  10. guest says:

    @some dude

    “eastern” does not mean “bad”.

    If you think that “eastern” is something “bad” or a “stigma” then you are either stupid or a racist.

    The whole “we are central europe” whining is totally pathetic, childish and shows 0% self confidence + 100% Inferiority complex.

    Stop this BS ! …and do not act like the russian tsar who wanted to create a “Paris if the north”, “venice of the north” blah bla blah…in St. petersburg and become more “western”.

  11. Jacek Wesołowski says:

    This isn’t about Poles wanting to be more Western or wanting to have a region of their own. This is strictly about Poles not wanting to have anything in common with Russia. And Russia just happens to occupy much of eastern Europe.

    This peculiar variety of isolationism is by no means a desirable state of affairs. There should be less confrontation and more understanding. But the common history is complex, to say the least, and now it’s a major sore spot. You cannot make it go away. You can only stop punching it and hope that it heals over time.

  12. Pawel says:

    If I may add something to the East/West/Centre debate:)

    Someone said that Poland is geographically in the East, if you divide the continent into halves. It is not. It is exactly at Europe’s proper. I prepared a complicated diagram that will explain this in more detail http://img521.imageshack.us/my.php?image=737pxeuropecountriesmaplr8.png

    Depending on how and why people will divide the continent Poland could find itself in either.

    I am no fan of the term “Central Europe” as it is misleading in my opinion. I think “Western Europe” is more appropriate for Poland.

    The term Eastern Europe is however not only geographical. (If someone thinks geography is a valid argument in this discussion look at where Sweden and Finland lay on the map and tell me whether its Western or Eastern Europe)
    East/West divide describes two different worlds which have ore differences geopolitically, mentally, and culturally than they have in common. It’s a division of civilisations.

    And the difference is all there: how you divide and judging by what.

    Western part of the continent evolved from the Western Roman Empire, and then around the Roman Christianity, enlightenment, until the modern era. While the East evolved from the Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul, followed the paths of Orthodox philosophy, through Kiev Rus, and went through different evolution which created a different system of laws, and cultures.
    That’s one way of dividing.
    Second way could be by taking industrial revolution and it’s outcomes into account. Then Elbe river would divide the continent. (But again, what with Sweden, Norway and Finland??)
    Third: the irion curtain.
    Fourth… and so forth…

    Poland seems to have always felt it belongs to the Western world and Western Europe.

    The currently used term “Eastern Europe” clearly comes from the communist period, where the Western Europe enjoyed democratic regime and wealth, while the “East” was subject to Russian-Soviet tyranny and grim poverty. This term was the used by the then “West” to differentiate itself from the worse “East”. So “East” does have negative connotations, cutting off from which is an additional aim here.
    The old division is not applicable any more, and should be revised according to geography, cultural, political, and historical allegiances.

  13. guest says:

    “superiour culture”


  14. guest says:

    Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT zostały po raz jedenasty nagrodzone
    tytułem “Najlepsza linia lotnicza Europy Wschodniej” przez
    prestiżowy brytyjski magazyn Business Traveller.


    So Pawel ? should Poland stay in eastern eurpe or not ? ;)

  15. Jose says:

    I think it should be considered part of southern Europe. That will make it warmer.

  16. toni says:

    No, no, no! It should be considered part of northern Europe. Then you could groove to Finnish Viking accordion violin death metal music:


  17. scatts says:

    I don’t have a problem with central Europe, it makes sense to me. You have the old west and the old east, those are clearly defined by what Russia had and what it didn’t have.

    You leave those boundaries unchanged except for pulling the countries that were never really very Russian out and calling them “central” – Poland, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania. Whatever is left in the old east, is the new east – Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and so on. Splitting the central from the eastern is essentially a question of alphabet.

    It is wrong to call the central parts, ‘western’ because they are not the same as UK, Germany, France etc. Not yet anyway. It is equally wrong to call them eastern.

    The country that surprises me is Austria. So obviously ‘west’ and yet always lumped in with ‘central’ – at least as far as many corporate definitions go.

    Most confusing to know what to do with is Croatia and all that pseudo-Italian stuff down the Adriatic.

  18. Sylwia says:

    I’m not bothered that much by the term “Eastern Europe” as by the fact that people don’t know geography. We’re often placed in Eastern Europe simply because people think that Europe ends somewhere around Belarus. I saw a British person argue that Russia isn’t in Europe for example. Well, then we’re undoubtedly in the far East!

    Another bugging thing is that we get Eastern European treatment. Notably, Amazon UK have these 3 zones for delivery rates: 1. Europe, 2. the US, Canada, and Japan 3. Rest of World. Guess where Poland is!

    I hoped that once we joined the EU they’d notice that we are in Europe. After all they began to tax us accordingly. So I emailed asking why on earth Finland or Greece are in Europe and we’re somehow not. I was informed that they have to charge more for deliveries to countries that are farther from the UK!

    Had I had Paweł’s map I might have sent it. Instead, I moved my orders to Amazon US. Yes, they know that Poland is in Europe and so it’s cheaper to have my stuff sent from the US than the UK.

    100% inferiority complex? Nope. Just good old money.

  19. Michael Farris says:

    “The country that surprises me is Austria. So obviously ‘west’ and yet always lumped in with ‘central’ – at least as far as many corporate definitions go.”

    AFAIK traditionally “Central Europe” was basicallly the Austro-Hungarian Empire (minus the more Balkany parts) that is Austria, Hungary, Czech-Slovakia.
    So technically Poland isn’t really Central Europe either (except maybe the parts around Krakow that belonged to Austria for a while).

    The rest of Poland is split between Prussian (part Western in outlook and part extinct) and Russian influence.

    I often use the very clumsy term “Central and Eastern Europe” to refer to the larger region.

  20. Sylwia says:

    Scatts: “It is wrong to call the central parts, ‘western’ because they are not the same as UK, Germany, France etc. Not yet anyway. It is equally wrong to call them eastern.”

    Actually I don’t think that Poles see Poland as a western country, or that they would want to see it this way. We usually think of ourselves as being between West and East, for all possible reasons. A Slavic language but Latin alphabet, a Catholic country but with ever alive paganism, Western cultural influences but the Slavic soul, the most ethnically mixed nation in Europe etc. I don’t even think we’d like to ever become like UK, Germany, or France. We like being different in many ways. However, we never saw ourselves as an Eastern country, so it was quite a shock to learn we’re seen like this by the West, and I think that we were never seen as an Eastern European country before Churchill placed us there. In the past there was only the division into North and South, and in this sense we see ourselves as northerners.

  21. Richardlith says:

    Central Europe also historically included Germany (Mitteleuropa). One at the Britiish Railway Museum in York I saw a collection of old British railway posters. One was from the 1930s, ¨Central Europe by rail,¨ and the picture was of the central square in ….. Munich!!

    Definitions of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe have historically been extremely fluid, and cut across national boundaries.

    Didn’t Metternich say that Asia began east of Vienna?

    It is also a question of national perception. Germans say that Poland is Eastern Europe, Austrians say that Hungary is the East. Hungarians say that Romania is the East. Romania say that UKraine is the East. Ukraine now wants to be western and says that Russia is the East. RUssia says that it is Eurasian…..

    Of course, being British I am a neutral observer, as Britain is not really part of Europe at all. The British are not ¨continental,¨ as they say.

  22. Anonymous says:

    DODA !!!!
    Polish singer is fantastic. She’s really nice.




  23. Anonymous says:

    DODA (fantastic polish singer)
    She is wonderful l!!!

  24. Radek says:

    Apropos the East-West discussion, Im reminded of a pre world war two joke.

    Two business men leave on trips to set up operations in the other’s city. One business man leaves Moscow, and the other business man leaves Paris. The trains meet in Warsaw. Both men mistakenly get off, thinking they’ve arrived at their destination…

  25. DC says:

    Pawel –

    I am a little surprised but also pleased to hear that a genuine Pole thinks that CNN is getting it right. Most of us here live in our own sealed environment, news-wise, in the US and CNN also caters to this by having domestic and international versions (think more OJ Simpson trials and less reality). This makes me crazy.

    Sylwia’s Amazon experience and others seems to argue we’re not the only ones who normally are clueless. I read UK and German websites fairly often for news. Are there any non-Polish news sources that stand out to you as having a realistic view of Poland?

    Compliments btw on your complicated diagram.

  26. Pawel says:



    (as to the news sources I don’t think there are particular sources that stand out… i think each story/reporter are different, and sometimes one editorial office can produce good and bad quality material… at least nothing specific comes to my mind…)

  27. Pawel says:

    PS. CNN is not perfect though. They said today Natalia Kukulska is one of the biggest Polish popstars. Not quite:)
    She’s passe. And she never had a style of her own, although some good songs did happen to her (“Decymy”, “Kamienie” feat. Tede)

  28. DC says:

    Don’t forget, by stereotype, you know before others who is passe.

  29. michaeldembinski says:

    Where the eff is “Solidarity Avenue” in Warsaw? Then again, where is “Ulica Króla” in London, or indeed “Cyrk Oksfordski” or “Mal Palski”?

    When translating from one language to another, boys and girls, lets not forget the rule of reciprocity.

    When translated into English, Rue St Michel does not become St Michael’s Road, nor St Michel’s Road. It is, in English, Rue St Michel. Bahnhoffstrasse in English is Bahnhoffstrasse not Bahnhoff Street nor Station Street. So ditch this dumb “Solidarity Avenue” and CALL IT WHAT IT IS – Aleja Solidarnosci.

  30. Pawel says:

    Dear Michael Dembinski

    I have no idea what Solidarity Avenue is:) That’s what CNN said they were reporting from. As I am not from Warsaw this could be anything. From a street to some kind of Solidarność Museum called like that or something. How would I know?

    Send it do boys and girls at CNN: poland@cnn.com :)

  31. Jacek Wesołowski says:

    There’s no such town as London. There is Lądek, Lądek Zdrój.

    Besides, if I ever go to Nowego Jorku and decide to take a walk to Manhattanu, I may as well take a look at Statuę Wolności or Most Brooklyński. Or even go shopping in Piątej Alei. My plane will probably land at Lotnisku Kennedy’ego rather than in Central Parku, but that’s okay, because I just might want to fly straight to Kalifornii or Teksasu. I just hope I won’t accidentally land in Północnej Dakocie.

  32. Jacek Wesołowski says:

    Oh, and one more thing. “Ahleya soleedarnostsi” is just a random name. “Solidarity Avenue” says something about people who live there. Not everyone would call one of their main streets like that. “Zamaek croolevski” may very well be some pub of hotel, while the significance of “Royal Castle” is obvious. If something is meant to get you interested in an obscure topic, such as Poland, it cannot rely on strange foreign words half of which you cannot even pronounce.

  33. ge'ez says:

    I know it as the Stasiu of Liberty.

  34. Jacek – country names, one translates. American states too. Some city names (Germany seems to have many – Koln = Cologne = Kolonia). In the UK, there’s Londyn and Edynburg. But Manchester and Glasgow remain Manchester and Glasgow. In Poland there’s Warsaw, Krakow has displaced the rather archaic Cracow (check Google.co.uk for both spellings).

    But not street names! I’ve never heard Hamburg’s Reeperbahn, for example, referred to as anything but that in English. ‘Street’ means ‘ulica’, granted, but ‘ul. Chopina’ is not Chopin St in English.

  35. Duffer says:

    I’m inclined to agree about the translation of names of streets. Countries, there’ll always be changes, whether it’s to do with pronunciation ability (Japanese saying “Lithuania” anyone?) or whatever, but I don’t think these changes should digress too much from the original without good reason. For example, Rzym?! – is there a story behind that? Roma – Rome is close, so isn’t so bad in my book. Also, Italia – Italy. Włochy though? Come on, please…

    That’s the whole point of Proper Nouns – the people who named them often named them for a reason, to change them too much is like someone changing my name from David to Jimmy.

    I, for example, do not come from Nowy Zamek, Anglia. It’s Newcastle, England. And I’m not just having a go at the Polish language for doing this, it happens in all languages and my brush tars all of them.

  36. Duffer says:

    Jacek – “If something is meant to get you interested in an obscure topic, such as Poland, it cannot rely on strange foreign words half of which you cannot even pronounce.”

    I disagree.. if anything, the fact that it’s in an exotic language would make me more interested and more likely to look it up. And upon looking up the name would probably find more about the history of the street / area / town etc than is contained on a half-hour, commercially driven programme on a whole country. The beauty of mystery.

  37. Dawid says:

    It seems this whole dilemma of Western vs Eastern Europe will never be conclusively solved. Over the centuries the perception and self-perception of Poles changed, although generally speaking the predominant view seems to have been that Poland was/is a country in between. It used to be in between Europe and Asia, now it is in between Western and Eastern Europe, etc. Quite a good place to be in fact. You get the best of both worlds ;)

  38. Steven Woodruff says:

    Poland is actually in the eastern half of Europe. The Poles just hate it when people say it cuase they don’t want to be associated with Russia. I don’t blame them. Who would ?

  39. Dawid says:

    You mean geographically, politically, ethnically, culturally?… Things are too complex to say that it “actually” is this or that.

    One thing is for certain – for half a century the Iron Curtain defined the West-East division. Now it’s gone, but the division is still etched in the people’s minds. Incl. Poles.

  40. Dawid says:

    Incidentally – both Britannica and Oxford Encyclopedia state that Poland is in Central Europe.

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