What does a travel journalist do that a travel blogger doesn’t?
Let’s face it, there’s an overwhelming amount of travel blogs on the internet. First hand experiences of families going to far away places. Grandmothers documenting their cruise holidays. Backpackers bringing a slice of the jungle to a screen near you. Some blogs make you want to pack your bags ASAP, others are just as boring as flicking through somebody else’s photo album…
I will not go into what makes a good travel blog here, I am sure you can suss that one out for yourselves. But I will talk about the differences between a travel blogger and a travel journalist. Why? Because I think it’s useful for aspiring travel journalists to be realistic about what is expected. You have a great travel blog, ok – but are you ready for the printed world?
The first essential difference is of course that most travel journalists do this for a living. Bloggers, in general, do it as something in addition to having a day job. This means that a travel journalist will spend every working hour researching and traveling, writing and photographing. Traveling is not just their passion, it’s a job. In other words, you will not only write about places that make your toes curl, you may also have to go places that don’t initially inspire you.
Secondly, there are standards to be met, both when it comes to text and photographs. I.e holiday snap shots simply won’t make do for the printed media.
The blog sphere is less critical. You don’t have to compete with other contributors to get your words and images out there. Having said this, quality speaks – also on the net. If your blog doesn’t entertain its readers, it’s not likely to get many hits. And if nobody bothers reading it, you may find that you can’t be bothered writing it.
Another BIG difference between a blogger and a journalist is the fact that things for print normally have a deadline. It may be two weeks, it may be next Monday or you may be lucky enough to have a whole year to produce your article. But you still have to do it by the time the publication needs it. For a blogger, there are only self imposed deadlines. I may aim to have a post written by the weekend, but if I don’t manage, it’s no big deal.
So far we’ve covered uninspiring destinations, quality and deadlines. What else do I do as a travel journalist which I don’t have to bother with as a travel blogger? For me, one essential difference is the photography. I have touched on this before. But I feel it’s really important.
You may write the most touching and vivid story about your latest trip to Madrid, but if you don’t get the shots to convey the feeling, you’ll find it hard to get it published. These days, when magazines and newspapers are cutting back their costs dramatically, they are not willing to pay for a whole set of images from a photo library. Maybe one, but not ten. Some magazines fork out to send a journalist AND a photographer on assignment together, but this tends to happen once you have a contract and have built up a steady working relationship with an editor. If you are trying to get your foot in the door, you are likely to produce both things yourself.
My word of advice, for whatever it’s worth, is to be trigger happy. Overcome your fear of asking people to pose for you. After all, you can’t present a publisher with ten pictures of yourself ’doing’ Madrid. (In a blog, this would of course not be an issue). For the printed media you’ll need to illustrate your text with other people’s experiences. Once you’ve got that ball rolling, it starts to get interesting.
The magazine cover on the left is just an example, I’m not even sure if this particular magazine has a travel section. But what type of women do you think reads this magazine?
Well, once you have the readership of your publication sussed out, you will want to include people the readers can relate to in your photos. If you’re writing about family travel to Morocco, it’s no good handing in a set of pictures full of old, Moroccan men in the medina. Stay focused! You will need to look out for families, photograph foreign kids picking up something exotic, maybe show an image of how well other families cope at dinner time to show that Morocco is a harmless destination for young vagabonds.
Place your models in a context, and make sure they are up for being photographed. NEVER creep up on people and fall prey to a papparazzi approach. Not only is it frowned upon and rude, but it may also be illegal as it is in certain parts of the world.
More travel journalism DIY tips can be found in part one of our series which focuses on how to make money as a freelance travel journalist.