The Irresponsible Traveller

travel and tourism worldwide

Posts Tagged ‘journalism

Chicken Telly

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My laptop’s on.  I’ve chucked another log on the stove.

Outside on the windowsill two chickens dibble amongst their feathers, pause, press against the window, extend their necks and stare in, pecking at spots of dirt on the glass.

Tap. tap, tap, tap…

My inbox proffers a couple of press trip invitations.  Both are vaguely diverting and would make engaging copy.  However, I’m overcome by inertia.  The prospect of hauling my arse half-way around the world, spending five or so days researching and the same writing, effectively oiling the cogs of a corporate marketing machine, does not appeal.  In more practical terms it’s likely any writing fees would be eroded by out-of-pocket expenses and be rendered mostly irrelevant by the time they’re paid.  More immediately, I’d be jetlagged, my bank balance would be bumping around twenty quid, and my wife would claim not to know me, again.

Chicken Telly

Left to Right: Petra, Boudica and Helga.  I am Chicken Telly.

That’s not to say I’m tired of travel.  There are places I’d do almost anything, short of elective amputation of a limb, to experience and write about.  However, I need to solve the financial equation such that X remains a positive integer.

Tap, tap, tap, tap…

More broadly, newspapers and magazines continue apace to abdicate responsibility for paying travel journalists.  Travel writing is seen by editors and others as a dilettante pastime rather than a profession – a source of free holidays.  Even worse, travel copy is becoming synonymous with marketing.

On the page differentiating between editorial and advertising used to be straightforward.  Fact Box information provided by the writer offered recommendations, handy hints or a disclosure of facilitation (free flight, free hotel, free tour etc…)  Paid ads surrounded features.  These days it’s not so clear. Editorial publishing schedules are determined by advertisers – it’s commercially expedient.  Back channel kick backs can govern who receives a Fact Box mention, sometimes to the detriment of readers.  In the case of digital media and bloggs in particular there’s often no attempt at editorial balance – 100% 21st century marketing.

Tap, tap, tap, tap…

The digital democratisation of publishing driven by the internet has made everyone a writer.  As a result we surf around in a cut-and-paste sea of lies, half truths and wishful thinking.  Instead of being information rich we’re weighed down by a poverty of facts.  This isn’t limited to travel.  ‘Fake News’ is everywhere, occupying airtime, that not reserved for product placement, billboards not destined for advertising or column inches not screaming PR.

If you’re expecting a great reveal, an answer or a call to action heralding a renaissance in ‘real’ travel journalism I’m sorry to disappoint.

Tap, tap, tap, tap…

Perhaps we should all be more like chickens.

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Written by Nick Redmayne

January 9, 2018 at 5:26 pm

Travel Journalism WTF?

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Having cleared my desk before Christmas – all commissioned pieces filed – I find myself inhabiting the un-festive season of oh-bloody-hell-now-what?  A few loose ideas dangle in the uncertain future but that’s about it.  Although I know I’m doing it, writing instead of writing and pitching inevitably leads to this abyss.  Like Wile E Coyote, the road ran out a while ago, I’ve just noticed and I’m now in free fall.

But it’s not just that…

After quitting PR in 2006/07 I’ve explored various aspects of travel writing; regular round-up columns, hotel reviews and destination features, along with current affairs crossover pieces for print, web and radio.  Many of these I’ve enjoyed researching, writing or broadcasting, even some of  the deskbound round-ups.

CIMG3112

Me in Melania Trump’s hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia.  I’m interviewing the baker who created ‘Torta Melanija.’  Three Euros a slice and very sweet, in case you’re interested…

However, there’s been a developing theme, and it’s nothing new.  Rates for travel writing now barely cover getting to the airport.  For the record, some pieces bring in £150, others a little more.  A half page feature in one broadsheet national nets a princely £350.  Factor in expenses (few papers cover these), and the industry’s system of payment ‘on’ publication (‘on’ could be months afterwards) rather than on filing and…  Well, you can see where I am.

Helping to focus my disillusion was a conversation I had with a blogger while on a recent press trip.  They were describing Orlando.  I responded along the lines of, ‘Each to their own, but you’d have to pay me.’  Whereupon it transpired some organ of Florida’s tourism marketing machine had not only sponsored the trip but also paid a daily rate for the blogger’s time.  On top of this Orlando wasn’t even somewhere the blogger really rated – it was simply ‘transactional.’  Whoop de ‘effing doo!

For most, freelance travel writing is now unsustainable as a primary income.  One former section editor recently described travel editorial as ‘a hobby’, another editor described writers’ pay as ‘low’ – accurate at least.  Sorrow is knowledge.  It’s clear that newspapers and magazines are either unable, unwilling or uninterested in paying better rates.  In which case why not allow a tourist board or a sponsor pay a journalist directly?  The same editorial rigour would be maintained – not something that applies to most blogs – and the writer’s fee might actually add up to more than the cost of a Happy Meal.

I know this upends a principle and will go against the grain for some.  However, in absolute terms it’s little different to what we have now with sponsored press trips, goody bags, complimentary gear etc…   The fact is that few of these enticements, beyond the basic facilitation, appeal to freelancers who’d much rather write a balanced, straight story and be able to pay their bills at the end of the month.

For me at least, 2018 will definitely see some changes.

 

Written by Nick Redmayne

January 2, 2018 at 5:15 pm

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