Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Did Travel Writers get Paid to Write Nice Things About the Gulf Oil Spill?

There has been some interesting discussion about the press tour to the Gulf Coast and the "gushing" that went on by the travel writers who were sent there. Apparently the LA Times took issue with the positives that came from that trip. I have no idea what the writers saw on this press trip and if they reported their findings objectively. But let me tell you a bit about press trips and travel writers and how things ususally go.

Free Trips
Yes, travel writers are treated to all expenses paid trips. The CVB's hotels, and others who host the press trips hope that the writers will produce an article from the trip, but there is no requirement to do so. Quite often the writers are treated to excellent meals, fine hotels and more. This sounds a bit like a bribe but it really isn't. Travel writers are usually not well-paid. Many are free-lancers and never know where their next check is coming from. They absolutely would not be staying at the hotels, dining in the restaurants and traveling along the Gulf Coast without financial support. They flat out cannot afford it.

What Do They Report?
Travel writers, exposed to new destinations, hotels and restaurants, will probably find some very positive things to report on. After all, that is what the tour is going to show them. However, travel writers are professional journalists. They will not report positively what they do not feel positively about. There are journalism ethics and we do follow a code. We are not for sale.

LA Times Unfair
I believe the LA Times was a bit unfair in their report of the Gulf Coast press trip. Travel writers work hard during press trips and report on what they see. I do agree that their comments on how the oil spill crisis might have been over-played would prompt outrage among most of us. But their positive comments on lodging, meals and tourist destinations probably were well-founded. I'd be happy to join a press trip like this and see for myself!

What do others think?