Tag: Journalism

Gawker Goes on a Vegas Press Trip

And lays the snark on thick in a dispatch, Among the Junketeers. Here’s a taste:

Though the Hilton was not objectively dirty, it was permeated by a certain sort of gloom that is the result of mixing dim lighting and snack bar food and huge television screens and losing betting slips together in close proximity and marinating for 20 years or so. “I think I’m a smart sports bettor, but I always lose,” said the TSN reporter to Kornegay at one point, obviating the need for a longer discussion here of how sports books in Las Vegas make their money.

Off to lunch at The Barrymore, a newly renovated spot with stylish wallpaper and mirrored walls and a ceiling made entirely of movie reels. On the way over we drove by Occupy Las Vegas, a grim collection of tents huddled on a cracked asphalt lot, like an obstinate little Hooverville. We did not stop. The manager at The Barrymore, shirt opened to the third button, came over to greet us. We had an entire room to ourselves. They filled the table with calamari and thinly sliced pork and every other appetizer on the menu, something which would be repeated in nearly every restaurant where we ate. The journalists had a bunch of cocktails, something which would also be repeated in nearly every restaurant. I neither drink nor eat meat, so I sat there eating my French onion soup and drinking coffee like a human sign reading “PARTY POOPER.” This would also be repeated in nearly every restaurant. The French onion soup was very good.

The press trip issue has been chewed over plenty (see: this, this, or, say, this), but I enjoyed this first-person, on-the-ground addition to the genre.

(Via @mikebarish)

Some Travel Headlines Never Get Old

Over at Slate, Press Box columnist Jack Shafer is gathering suggestions for a list of generic news headlines that never seem to go out of style—headlines, as Shafer puts it, with “all the news value of one titled ‘Sun To Rise in East Tomorrow’.”

It occurred to us that hard news isn’t the only area that seems to rely on a rotating cast of headlines; travel writing has its fair share, too. So what are the “frequent flyers” of travel news headlines? Here’s a start:

Got more to add to the list? Let us know in the comments, or post them on Twitter with the hashtag #staletravelnews.

Hunter S. Thompson and the Vancouver Sojourn That Could Have Been

Fifty two years ago, Hunter S. Thompson applied for a job at the Vancouver Sun, then under the direction of an ambitious new editor. The application letter—apparently written in a “frenzy of drink”—appears in full in this Sun article, and it’s a remarkable read. Here’s Thompson on the state of modern journalism:

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to work for you.

For fans of Thompson as a travel writer, the letter closes on a tempting note: “It’s a long way from here to British Columbia, but I think I’d enjoy the trip.” (Via @AllisonCross)

National Geographic: Now Available in Arabic

The venerable magazine is launching an Arabic-language edition this week. Speaking to the AP, the new edition’s editor, Mohamed al-Hammadi, “expressed hope it would give Arab readers a deeper understanding of the planet and how others live.” (Via The Book Bench)

Stranded: Ash Cloud Magazine On Sale Now

A few months back we noted that a group of travelers stranded by the volcanic ash cloud were putting a magazine together—and sure enough, the aptly-named Stranded has arrived. Its 88 ad-free pages are heavy on the graphics and photos; there’s a preview available online. All proceeds from sales go to the International Rescue Committee, “to help people stranded in a more permanent way.” (Via Kottke)

P.J. O’Rourke Goes to Afghanistan

The occasional travel writer takes a fun shot at parachute journalism:

If you spend 72 hours in a place you’ve never been, talking to people whose language you don’t speak about social, political, and economic complexities you don’t understand, and you come back as the world’s biggest know-it-all, you’re a reporter.


Kristof and the Challenge of Race in Africa Stories

Kristof and the Challenge of Race in Africa Stories Photo by Fred R. Conrad
Photo by Fred R. Conrad

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof is answering reader questions on video, and one answer, in particular—see the video below—touches on a sensitive topic: coverage of black Africans as victims and white visitors as their saviors.

Kristof admits to sometimes using white people as “bridge” characters in his Times stories to help draw in readers in America who might otherwise turn the page upon seeing a story about Central Africa.

San Francisco Chronicle Editor at Large Phil Bronstein likes Kristof’s answer: “[A]dmitting that there’s a white reporter’s burden in writing about Africa is among the braver things he’s done. It’s the bold revelation of a messy little secret not so mysterious to those of us in the profession.”

Bronstein’s blog post about it, which draws on his own reporting experiences, is a good read.

A quick note on related World Hum coverage: Kristof has talked about his own formative travel experiences in a World Hum interview, and Frank Bures has tackled the “white man’s burden” in Africa—and the perspective of Bono, among others—in a provocative World Hum essay, Suffering and Smiling: Vanity Fair Does Africa.

Here’s the Kristof video:

(Via Romenesko)

Steve Coll: ‘In Journalism, There is no Substitute for Travel’

The writer is saying goodbye, temporarily at least, to his public policy blog over at the New Yorker. In his final post, he shares some lessons learned—including one about the importance of travel.

Here’s Coll:

In journalism, there is no substitute for travel. By far the most fun I had with this format came when I was on the road. Last summer I was in Africa and Indonesia. Taking half-assed digital pictures for Think Tank and writing diary entries redoubled the already uplifting experience of reporting from those places. If the new journalism arising from digital formats can compensate a person adequately for wandering the world in a taxi with an iPhone, I will happily surrender my nostalgia for newspapers, magazines, and books.

(Via The Daily Dish)

Slate Tackles the New York Times and ‘Jewspotting’

Jack Shafer thinks the Times should lay off the “hey-folks-we’ve-found-some-Jews-living-in-a-strange-place” stories. Money quote:

Jewspotting stories appear to be about something when they’re really about nothing. Then why such enthusiasm for them at the Times? Because journalists love to write about holdouts—the guy who refuses to sell his home, the Papua New Guinea tribe that won’t become “civilized,” the last blacksmith in town, the last survivor of World War I, even the last Oldsmobile. Rarity stories are easy to write, and their sappiness makes them even easier to read.

I suspect that the relative stability of Jewish populations—outside a drop in inhospitable countries—is the real story. But things staying the same is the opposite of a story, right?

(Via Jeffrey Goldberg)

NYT Freelancer Gets the Axe

Last week’s “swag orgy” controversy has ground to a conclusion: Freelancer Mike Albo has had his shopping column cut by the New York Times after violating the paper’s ethics agreement. Weirdly, Gawker—the blog that helped force the Times’ hand—now apparently thinks the firing is too harsh.

I’ll give Mike Albo the last word once again. He told New York Magazine: “I look forward to trying on cashmere sweaters I can’t afford for other publications.”

Endless Travel Writing Ethics Debate Gets Gawkerized*

And here I thought only our little corner of the writing community cared about the ongoing press trip debate. Apparently not. Yesterday, Daily Finance outed New York Times contributor Mike Albo as a taker of press trips, describing Albo’s recent Jamaica junket as a “swag orgy.” Now Gawker’s gotten involved, too, pointing out to the Times’ higher-ups that one of their freelancers was in violation of their no-freebies policy. The Times has acknowledged that the paper has “concerns” about the trip.

As for Mike Albo? Here’s his latest tweet: “do you ever feel like you are a guppy who is being eaten by his mother?”

*Update 12:59 p.m. ET: We’re debating the issue on Twitter at #twethics.

Paranoid and Isolated in North Korea

Photojournalist Sean Gallagher looks back at a trip he and writer Mark MacKinnon took to North Korea, both posing as regular tourists. The details in the post—quizzes about science and history from government minders, fears about bugged hotel rooms—are fascinating, and the post ends on a thoughtful note:

As much as I would have liked to, getting close to the everyday person proved to be almost impossible. Hence, my photographs from this journey have a sense of isolation about them. It is an isolation probably born from my own feelings while being there. People are dwarfed against the mighty, imposing communist-era architecture, small and insignificant against the overbearing size of the buildings.

For me, my images from this trip have raised more questions than answers.

(Via @markmackinnon)

The Economist: Americanisms to Avoid

Here’s an entertaining tidbit from The Economist’s style guide, advising writers for the venerable British weekly on a few American-style variations of the English language that are best left unused. A sample:

Make a deep study or even a study in depth, but not an in-depth study. On-site inspections are allowed, but not in-flight entertainment. Throw stones, not rocks, unless they are of slate, which can also mean abuse (as a verb) but does not, in Britain, mean predict, schedule or nominate. Regular is not a synonym for ordinary or normal: Mussolini brought in the regular train, All-Bran the regular man; it is quite normal to be without either. Hikes are walks, not increases. Vegetables, not teenagers, should be fresh. Only the speechless are dumb, the well-dressed smart and the insane mad. Scenarios are best kept for the theatre, postures for the gym, parameters for the parabola.

And some people think there are no cultural differences to speak of between Americans and their trans-Atlantic neighbors—or should I say neighbours? (Via Gadling)

Oyster Hotel Reviews: Going Undercover?

The Star-Ledger has an interesting profile of Oyster Hotel Reviews, a newcomer on the online travel scene. The story emphasizes the site’s efforts to hire writers with investigative reporting experience for their undercover reviews, and while some of the cloak-and-dagger language seems a tad over the top, it still adds up to an intriguing point: Oyster is abandoning the trend of user-generated reviews in favor of hiring trained professionals, and aiming to rise to the top of the hotel-review heap by doing so. Maybe guidebook writing isn’t a doomed profession after all?

Dan Baum on Journalism and the Expat Life

In a recent series of tweets, the veteran reporter looked back on how he launched his career—by setting up as an independent foreign correspondent in Zimbabwe—and encourages young writers to follow suit. The tweets are collected on his website. Here’s a sample:

I still think going abroad—particularly to a place others avoid—is a way to make a name.

It’s a way to distinguish oneself from the mass of people who want to be writers.

It’s a way to call attention to oneself—by having something others don’t.

And it’s a way to do what we all got into this business for in the first place.

That is, to shine light into places the public needs to know about, but might otherwise miss.

(Thanks for the tip, Rob Verger)

Afghanistan: ‘It’s Always the Fixer Who Dies’

George Packer responds to last week’s rescue effort, which freed kidnapped New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell but left his Afghan fixer, Sultan Munadi, dead: “Somehow, it’s always the fixer who dies. Of course, this is a false statement of fact on its face—at the very least, an exaggeration. But it feels emotionally true.” It’s worth reading in full.

Gay Talese Takes the Circle Line

The New Journalism pioneer overcame his aversion to water—“In some 50 years as a writer, I do not recall ever proposing a story that would likely lead to getting my feet wet,” he writes—and joined the tourists for a circumnavigation of Manhattan on the Circle Line.

Talese is still on his game. It’s a terrific story, with a terrific audio slideshow.

Interview With James Wallace: Reflections From an Aerospace Reporter

Interview With James Wallace: Reflections From an Aerospace Reporter Photo courtesy of James Wallace.
Photo courtesy of James Wallace.

Award-winning reporter James Wallace covered aerospace for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for more than 12 years. He worked for a total of 27 years at the paper, which recently stopped printing and transitioned to an online-only version with a comparatively tiny reporting staff. When that happened, Wallace’s job disappeared.

Wallace, who wrote a goodbye blog entry, is the author of two books, “Hard Drive” and “Overdrive,” both about Microsoft. 

I caught up with him over the phone to hear about his years on the aviation beat.

World Hum: You covered aerospace for 12 years. How have you seen commercial air travel change during that time?

Read More »

Mourning in Vegas

Mourning in Vegas Photo by pocheco via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Surrounded by the decadence of yet another nightclub opening, Kevin Capp must come to terms with the death of his grandfather

Read More »

Ezra Pound, Foreign Correspondent

In the latest issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review, Jon Schneider writes about Ezra Pound’s unlikely (and brief) stint as a European correspondent for the Richmond News Leader, during his final years in Italy. Included with the essay are scanned images of Pound’s “feisty, allusive” submissions to the paper—all but one of which were deemed unpublishable by the editor.