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Who's commissioning? | Do we have a responsibility to public health?
This is the first ever Talking Travel Writing newsletter
Welcome to the first edition of our fortnightly newsletter, which promises to uncover all the mysteries of how to make it in the travel writing industry, and explore some of the more controversial topics that come up in conversation among our colleagues.
Our little corner of the media is a frustrating place sometimes, as editors’ email addresses are traded between writers like Pokémon cards in a primary school, and who gets paid what and how people make money remains a closely-guarded secret.
So we (Lottie Gross and Steph Dyson, the writers behind this newsletter) think transparency is the best way forward. We want to demystify the travel media to make it accessible for everyone. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced professional, we want to help you understand how it all works, and be better at what you love doing.
The plan is that we’ll alternate between op-eds on the industry’s hot topics and practical, useful advice and tips. Of course, that might change based on what’s going on in the industry or the feedback we get from you (tell us what you want to know in this short feedback form), but hopefully we’ll offer a great mix of thoughtful and insightful content.
To kick things off, here’s Lottie with some thoughts on what’s going on, and what needs to happen, in the travel media right now.
Post-COVID coverage: we have a responsibility to public health
Travellers, hotels, campsites and restaurants all breathed a sigh of relief last week as the Prime Minister announced the resumption of domestic tourism from 4 July. It’s likely that you, my friends in the travel media, also let go of some of that tension you’ve been harbouring. Finally, you’ve got some good news to write about.
But don’t get too comfortable. We have a responsibility. As medical professionals and the odd keyboard warrior will continue to point out: the virus hasn’t gone away, it is still infectious, and it doesn’t discriminate. So what does this mean for travel coverage?
It means we have to be careful. Overnight, Brits panic-booked their next holidays as searches and bookings for staycations in Devon and Cornwall – summer holiday stalwarts – rose dramatically (46% YoY), and self-catering accommodation booker Snaptrip saw a 400% rise in revenue compared with this time last year.
While rejoicing at our new-found freedom is fine, and encouraging people to book is the right message, we need to be considered about what we’re saying, and how we’re saying it. Responsible travel has taken on a new meaning in 2020, and so has responsible travel writing.
The scenes from Bournemouth beach during last week’s heat wave were shocking, as an estimated half a million people descended on the coast to soak up the sun and sea. And it’s exactly this sort of thing we can choose to help or hinder. Instead of writing about the Lake District, Cornish coast or the Cotswolds, we should be pointing people to those underrated corners of the country that don’t see mass tourism, but are ready and waiting to welcome visitors. It’s time, dear writers, to roll out the biggest cliché of them all: tell me about those hidden gems you’ve discovered.
We also need to help people stay safe wherever they choose to go. It’s not sexy or particularly inspirational, but practical tips on how to be responsible and safe within hotels wouldn’t go amiss, and advice on social distancing while using public facilities – be it toilets or queueing at the bar in the local pub – can help our readers be better travellers this summer.
You might think it’s not your responsibility to worry about this stuff, and that no matter what you publish people will still go to those already overwhelmed places and act irresponsibly. Maybe they will. But then again, maybe they won’t.
Ultimately, if we can help Brits travel safely this summer, we’ll still have an industry to write about in six month’s time.
With budgets slashed and editorial calendars binned, it's been a tough few months for travel journalists. But, as travel restrictions loosen, things might finally be on the up. We've been reliably informed that the following publications are commissioning travel pieces:
Conde Nast Traveller
Walk Magazine are looking for pitches about specific trails or walking areas in Northern Ireland. Pitch them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Starlight Williams, Assistant Editor at National Geographic is looking for pitches about having a great summer despite COVID-19. She's keen on stories from writers of colour. This one comes courtesy of the Journo Resources newsletter.
Cliche of the day
Melting pot — To be filed away under "No, no" unless you're describing an establishment serving up particularly delicious fondue.
Acronym of the day
DMO – Destination Management Organisation. Bureaucrat speak for tourist board.
Meera Dattani examines the unintentional ways we bring a colonising gaze into our writing and how we can work towards decolonising the travel experience for our readers in this piece for The Telegraph.
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