By Andrew Beck
The concept of travel journalism was foreign to me at the beginning of the course. I knew about Rick Steves and travel magazines, but what actually is travel journalism? I didn’t know that there was so much behind-the-scenes work that went into travel journalism pieces. I figured travel journalists were the journalists who had ‘made it’ and could now just write about traveling. Destinations will often persuade journalists to write about their location in a certain way, or offer large freebies that are hard to ignore. There is an almost political background to the business that I didn’t see before. We discussed ethical scenarios not because they may happen, but for when they do happen. Conflicts of interest are more common than one would normally think.
The most satisfying aspect of this course was being challenged by deadlines. That sounds crazy at first, but the deadlines came up similar to a real job would’ve. Improvising, and getting creative to meet the course goals was a fun way to stretch out my brain’s legs. That doesn’t mean the course was without challenge. Getting interviews with relevant, interesting people is a hard task. This is an area where getting creative and knowing how to pick up the phone can really help you. Having to call people and ask questions pushes you in a way you wouldn’t normally be pushed, in a good way. It gives you more confidence to go and talk to strangers, or ask about people’s profession. It also gives you the confidence in what you’re doing, and what you’re asking. After awhile, you’re more interested in the story than being nervous about meeting a new person.
The biggest piece of advice I could give to someone thinking about going into travel journalism is that you should think through your entire story before visiting a place. Be prepared to change that story as your experience will bring in new details, but don’t visit somewhere or attempt to write about somewhere without already having some idea about it. If you don’t know what to look for, you’ll miss it when you’re there. This will lead to having irrelevant pictures for your story, potentially irrelevant interview subjects, etc. Think through questions you would ask as a reader: why am I reading this? Who cares about this destination? How do I get there?
These are useful questions to overlook when you’re excitedly writing about a place. Make sure there’s actually a full story before launching into it.
If I were to do anything differently, I think I would do my Story 3 differently. I like the pictures I took, but as I mentioned in my previous paragraph, I should’ve had a more developed story in mind before taking pictures and video. My photos are of plants, but I didn’t think at the time to make sure to get the exact names of those plants, for example. This would mean I’d have to drive back to the greenhouse just to get that nominal information, or spend time looking up the descriptions of each. This is why I mentioned planning ahead and thinking outside the box to make sure you don’t get caught with your hands tied.