Needed: Your questions for our next #MatUTalks Twitter chat in July!
Hey everyone…our next Twitter chat is July 10 at 2:30EST (pencil it in!). The topic will be “The future of travel journalism” so promises to be very interesting!
As usual, we want to see your voices in there, and would love to feature some of your questions. What kinds of questions on this topic would create some good discussion? Leave them here!
It seems like the rapidly growing accessibility and intuition of our technology has been a major catalyst for creating a booming travel writing industry. But it has also created a society with a short attention span. Now travel writers can reach out to each other and their demographic from all over the world instantaneously, easily transmitting multi-platform ideas. In a country where even news stations are re-posting doctored photos before checking their validity (such as in the Hurricane Sandy debacle), how can writers keep their journalistic conscience and continue to write thoughtful, objective, verified work in a time-conscious way while still remaining competitive in this new market of instant gratification? Is marketing becoming more important to success than good writing?
Not sure I’ll be able to make it next July 10th, but here’s my two cents.
Travel has never been more accessible and the tools of the trade nowadays include social media, blogging, digital photo retouching (the list goes on). For those who create content one thing hasn’t changed: it’s difficult to produce and travel at the same time. How can technology helps the future digital nomad?
I read some Foster Wallace’s essays (the one about a Caribbean cruise trip, and another one about the lobster fair in Maine). They are excellent non-fiction works and travel writing pieces, and of course they are beautifully written. But Wallace himself (an awesome fiction writer) recognized in some interviews that he maybe embellished some parts of the stories. So my question is that, is it fair to add some fiction or embellished details to a real travel journalism story? Where should be the limit to consider the piece a real travel journalism story?
Here’s an interesting interview with the editorial director at Buzzfeed that is very much related to this topic: http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Q/ID/2465704435/
Have a listen, I’m curious what you all think. Leads me to a question that is relevant for this Twitter chat: Is there space in the future of travel journalism for listicles?
Or maybe, Is it possible for listicles to be regarded as travel journalism?
I’ve noticed that in the content I am reading it seems that writing has become less about encouraging others to travel and experience a place themselves – and more about what the author’s experience was in that location so that the reader can live vicariously through the writer in that place – the expectation that someone would actually visit a location after reading about it has diminished (not sure if it’s a trend in the journalism community or my observations and the way I’m reading/perceiving content). I know this perception is in part to a saturation of the travel journalism market – that is so competitive that many writers seem to slap together content on a moments notice that will get attention regardless of the content. Part of it is the exceptional use of photography to transport a person to a place while they stay firmly rooted on their living room couch. Online review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor now also seem to carry more weight over good travel journalism when picking a place to go or stay. I think I also feel this way in part because of the “listicles” that can limit experiences to a fixed number of elements that the author conjurs up.
So perhaps my question is something like: Can travel writers still create genuine/engaging content to encourage travel or do audiences only take time for quick reads and gimmicky lists now?
To address my thoughts on listicles directly: I’m not a fan of lists in journalism, as fodder for bloggers, or as making the cover of a magazine because they nearly always take the creative thought from the writing and allow the reader turn their brain off to things outside of the list. Lists have their place and make for a quick ‘read’ in some social media outlets. However, I’m so turned off to numbered lists that those headlines raise red flags of inauthenticity and unsubstantiated data. If there is a story that is told with a list, I am quite skeptical because the “13 best beaches” cannot possibly be a comprehensive or accurate list for all audiences. And often lists use superlatives that are inaccurate at best and dishonest at worst. Lists seem “so last year” and have saturated the market so much that they are cliche. I hope the trend goes away soon!
Hey Andrea, did you give a listen to the interview I posted above? I think it’s easy to paint all list articles with the same brush, but like with anything else there can be different intentions, methodologies, and skill in crafting them. Sure, a “13 best beaches” list full of cliches and travel porn is one thing…but what about a title like “13 ways of seeing the world you’ll never know if you’ve never been to the beach” with poignant points and carefully crafted sentences/visuals? (I admit it’s not a great title, but I hope you get my point).
As to your first point, I think if a writer is skilled enough and they’re talking about their own experiences in a place/with a culture they DO encourage people to visit. What I think is old/outdated in “travel writing” (or what is prevalent today in the genre) is talking AT your audience…I think people are interested in other’s stories. There’s so much disconnection/individualism in our society that I think people are hungry to connect with others…and this can happen through storytelling (which, by the way, can be done in a list format if done cleverly enough).
I personally don’t think lists are going away or are a trend per se…for one, they’re not new. They’ve been around for decades. What is making them so prevalent is the nature of the internet and how we use it. For the most part we “scan” on the internet. Not many people are into reading a 5000 word narrative on their computer or iPhone. The format of anything read over the internet is important and if you want to share a story or a message as far and wide as possible, putting it into easily digestible chunks with tight writing (maybe with some photos/videos), and scannable sections. Not to say the longread is dead but the internet doesn’t seem to be the place for them…so it’s a matter of choosing your platform wisely.
I know this discussion is supposed to happen on Thursday but it’s so interesting and hard to convey all that in 140 characters. The question becomes, for me anyway, more about how we can be smart about lists (if in fact they’re here to stay) and retain credibility, authenticity, creativity when producing them.
All that said, I think the question you put forth is a great one! 🙂