I started out thinking her credo was noble, but then lost out to cynicism.
Editor Klara Glowczewska invoked the words of the founder in her editorial: “We are wholly independent. We pay our way. We have no hidden obligations. We have no higher obligation than the one to you: to provide truth in travel.”
This philosophy, she wrote, is even more relevant now, “with the proliferation on the Web and in other digital formats of travel advice from thousands of unexamined sources, a tide of unfiltered bits of data masquerading as reliable guidance and clamoring for our attention.” Translation: she doesn’t respect web writers.
She’s tough on freelancers. They can’t even fly at a “discounted rate.” “If we discover that a reporter has accepted favors while on assignment,” she writes, “…that person can no longer work for this magazine.” Traveler correspondents must always be anonymous, too. “If we were to accept favors, our views and recommendations would lack authority — and we pride ourselves on being authoritative,” the editor concludes.
Okay great. Now, how does this mission apply to the content? Therein lies the problem. All these ethics give way to relentless boosterism. It’s easy to be truthful if you’re only going to say nice things. And that is how our business works. We write about what we like, whether books, travel, food, or products. We promote.
Can you imagine the cover blurbs of Traveler if some of the real stories came out?
- Where Not to Stay in Venice
- Caribbean Islands to Avoid
- Five Awful Days in Britain.
Who would advertise? Who would buy it? So really, how truthful is it when you don’t tell the whole story?
The bottom line is that we writers can function truthfully without getting all our expenses covered (even though we’d love that) and we don’t have to be anonymous. We go to conferences, press events, restaurant openings, and educational seminars put on by companies. It’s not a problem. Because we are almost always positive in our stories — extolling the greatness of a food truck, a baking technique, a restaurant, a chef — the stakes are very low.
You might also like:
- Freebie or For Review: What’s the Difference?
- Food Writer Busted on Free Wedding Meal
- Separating Hype, Opinion and Journalism