By Emily Beloate
Audience. Focus. Creativity. The three “holy grails” of travel writing as I’ve discovered this term. There are many elements of Travel Journalism that are essential to an effective story, but these are the three that I’ve learned the most about over the last few weeks.
My three main stories were about Spokane Transit Authority, Macklemore’s “Downtown” music video, and Pleasant Blends Gourmet Coffee House. Writing these stories has given me lots of insight into tourists and the travel industry. The travel industry is a much more complicated business than people expect. When writing a travel story, there are so many different elements one has to think about.
Target audience is much more important than I realized. I always imagined Travel Journalism to be more generic, it could apply to anyone. However, that is not the case. Being able to pinpoint a specific audience to target will make the story more successful than a more broad audience appeal. Narrowing the audience to a specific age range, economic group, or other demographic categories can create a better focus for the story and promote a more specific appeal to the targeted group of people.
Speaking of focus, this was one of the more challenging elements of writing travel stories. There are so many different possible directions to take a story in, it is hard to choose one and stick to it. I found myself wanting to choose a more broad focus to cover more content, but I eventually had to find a more specific focus, as it helped the story make more sense and created a better appeal for the average reader.
The importance of media elements in Travel Journalism was a surprise to me. I never realized how much a single picture can strengthen or destroy a story. One picture, if it’s the right picture, could almost tell the story all by itself. It is difficult to take strong pictures for the stories, as it requires the journalist to get up close and personal with the location. I tend to be an introverted person with people I don’t know, so I definitely had to step out of my comfort zone both for the interviews and for the media elements. I ended up with some interesting shots, but I wish I had stepped out of the box a little bit more to get some more creative pictures and videos.
Where I lacked in media creativity, I think I made up for in writing creativity. My advice to someone taking this class would be this: do not be afraid to experiment and find creative ways to write. People are so accustomed to journalism having a specific formula and structure, but it’s okay to branch out and try new approaches. Over this term, there were many times when I had a more creative idea that I was afraid to try. But I often chose to do it anyway, and those ideas turned out to be some of the strongest parts of my stories. For example, in my Hometown story, I introduced and ended the story with the personification of water. At first, I wasn’t sure if it would make sense or if people would understand. However, it ended up working really well and I think is one of the strongest parts of the work I did in this class.
This class was challenging, but I learned more than I imagined I could in the matter of a few weeks. I’ve built up my writing resumé and have broadened my view of journalism, and I’ve learned a lot about myself and my individual writing style.