Breaking Travel News

PhocusWright Conference, 2009, Blogger Summit – The blending of blogging and journalism

Elliott Ng will represent UpTake during the PhocusWright 2009 Conference, Blogger Summit Town Hall on Wednesday, November 18th at 9:00 a.m. Ten topics were suggested by the panelists for discussion during a planning meeting a few weeks ago. We decided to collect the best posts and examples about each subject and showcase them. We hope this series lends itself to more insightful discussion during the Town Hall presentation.–Patricia Jenkins, Editor

The battle of bloggers vs journalists ended a long time ago. Simply put, journalism got taken to the woodshed. Which is why we’re talking about the blending of blogging and journalism. The MSM (mainstream media magazines) have since taken to blogging with a passion, backed up by massive resources, big brand names and the reporting and writing skills that journalists possess.

On the other hand, individual bloggers who have never seen an AP-stylebook or a grumpy editor in their life are increasingly being considered as respectable sources for breaking news and analysis, aided by the viral nature of social networking which heavily favors the voice, passion and timely news offered by bloggers and citizen journalists.

The two sides are heading towards a convergence which is still a work in progress, the rules for which are being made up along the way. A few examples from the travel industry which throw some light on this ongoing convergence:-


LA Times

Jen Leo (Los Angeles Times) – Jen Leo is the star of the LA Times’ Daily Deal blog, which offers a mix of breaking travel news, deals and special offers, and reviews of hotels and destinations.

For LAT readers and other travel media professionals, Jen Leo is a blogger. But as far as travel companies who are the subject of the news are concerned, Jen Leo is a journalist and a reporter for the LA Times.

New York Times – Probably the best example of how the MSM has co-opted blogging and turned it into a cocktail of traditional journalism on a blog platform. When you read a post by Matt Gross – The Frugal Traveler, or on Globespotters, In Transit or The Times Traveler, you wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the Times has some amazing bloggers. But it’s not as simple as that.

This excellent Venturebeat piece explains how a blog post published on an NYT blog is a team affair – “Times bloggers don’t work on their own. They don’t handle every aspect of their blogs. Who does what is divided up to bring specific expertise to bear on different parts of each post.” And the team effort continues even after the blog post is published, with promotional efforts on the site and on social networks being divvied up.

Nicole White – Freelance writer who runs a personal blog got embroiled in a massive controversy last month, when she accused the TSA of ‘taking her child.’ The blogosphere piled on the TSA in support of Ms. White, and the story quickly went viral. Then the TSA released video which categorically disproved most of the accusations.

Fact remains that no one checked the facts, and almost every major travel blog picked up the story and hit the TSA hard, accepting Ms. White’s version of events on face value. This wouldn’t have happened back in the days when the MSM didn’t publish anything until it got cross-checked and the sources verified.

Press Trips, Freebies & Junkets – Should a blogger accept freebies & junkets? If not, then it becomes virtually impossible to make an in-person visit to a destination before writing a review. Jeremy Head, Tnooz, laments the fact that he was “recently offered $300 to write a 1,500-word feature about El Salvador by a major UK national newspaper. Not just to write it, but to go there, do the trip, take the notes, come home, write it up. And no expenses either.”

Basically, journalists from major magazines and lowly freelance bloggers are now on an almost equal footing, as far as freebies are concerned. And if it is ok to accept freebies as a necessary evil, should there be a disclosure about it included in the post? As per a recent FTC ruling, “the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement” and needs to be disclosed, or face a $11,000 violation.

Travel Guidebooks based on Blogs – Books and reviews in big magazines published by well-known writers who travel the world are now giving way to travel content sourced from local blogs.

David Sifry’s OffbeatGuides, which allows you to create custom travel guides, sources its information from the internet, and combines it “with information from established authors and thousands of locals who are always updating the information about where they live.”

Blog Networks hiring Journalists – Until recently, popular bloggers were snapped by the MSM and put to work as journalists. But nowadays, with newspapers everywhere shutting down or downsizing, it is the blog networks that are doing the hiring.

Tnooz editor Kevin May, with a 16 year background in journalism, says that Tnooz has “a mixture of professional journalists and a range of industry bloggers and other experts in the sector. And, for me, there is no distinction between them all. They all produce unique content for Tnooz and in turn reach a wider and global audience.”

La Times Building photo by Omar Omar; NY Times building photo by alextorrenegra; TSA photo by hughelectronic; Logos courtesy Offbeat Guides & Tnooz.