Q&A With Tom Swick, a Travel Editor Let Go

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  07.31.08 | 5:03 PM ET

imageEvery week brings more news of layoffs and downsizing in newspaper newsrooms across the United States. This week, one of our favorite travel editors and writers, Tom Swick, learned that his services were no longer desired. For 19 years, Swick edited the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s travel section, publishing an engaging mix of articles, columns and essays. His was among the best travel sections in the country, and Swick was the only newspaper travel editor whose own writing frequently appeared in “The Best American Travel Writing” anthologies. His layoff comes as part of a 20 percent cut in the Sun-Sentinel’s editorial staff. Swick cleared out his desk Tuesday. I chatted with him by phone today.

World Hum: Sorry we’re talking under these circumstances. Were you surprised by the news?

Tom Swick: A little surprised. If this had happened five years ago, I’d be really upset. But I’m not missing out on anything now. The paper and the section I once knew are no longer there.

So how are you feeling?

OK. I think this could be liberating. The wonderful thing about being a writer—and there aren’t that many wonderful things, as you know—is that if you have a job and you lose that job, you can still write. If you’re a banker you can’t do banking at home, but writers can work anywhere. Most people who get laid off feel a loss of identity. But if you’re a writer, you look at your role models, and they are people who do it full time, without being employed by anyone. The only traumatic thing is leaving a place I used to go every day.

Interestingly, I’m the only specialty section editor to be laid off. The fashion editor is still there, and so are the home and garden editors and the food editor. It kind of conforms to what I’ve always said about the travel editor position: It’s the only one of the specialty section positions viewed as requiring no particular expertise. It seems to go along with that idea.

Are they going to continue to publish the travel section?

As far as I know. It still brings in considerable advertising.

When did things start to change for you at the travel section?

Last year. That’s when I was told I wouldn’t have much of a budget for travel and buying freelance stories. Those were my two favorite parts of the job, traveling and developing relationships with writers. Toward the end I really wasn’t buying much. The rare freelance story I bought was about Florida. And my last trips were Florida trips. Before, I was taking about four trips a year: a Florida trip, a trip elsewhere in the U.S., a trip to Europe and to somewhere else, like Asia, South America, the Caribbean.

I didn’t see a farewell blog post from you.

No. My last day was Tuesday. I came back from Australia and found out. I went in, had an exit interview and cleaned out my desk. I regret that I wasn’t able to write a farewell column. It would have been nice to say goodbye to readers.

Yeah, that’s a shame. There’s a lot of talk and hand-wringing over the demise of book review sections, as there should be. But I don’t hear many complaints about shrinking travel sections. What do you make of that?

That’s a really interesting point. The book review is an intellectual section of the paper, and some people feel very strongly about it. Travel has always been seen as a frivolous part of the paper.

Which is sad. So what’s next for you?

I’m working on a book. It’s a memoir, but it’s got elements of travel and some reflections on journalism, as well. I’m also going to try to do some freelance writing.

Well, your writing is always welcome here. Thanks, Tom.

22 Comments for Q&A With Tom Swick, a Travel Editor Let Go

Joel Carillet 07.31.08 | 8:17 PM ET

Tom, your Sun-Sentinel articles will be missed, but many of us look forward to finding your thoughts, wit, and experiences in other venues in the future.

All the best with the book, and the transition away from the paper.

farley 07.31.08 | 8:18 PM ET

Oh man. This is bad news on so many levels.

Charlotte Francis 08.01.08 | 2:05 AM ET

Hi Tom,

I just logged onto World Hum at your excellent recommendation. But, shocked to learn you have been laid off - their loss!

It was a very great pleasure to meet you in Melbourne and I have just started to read A Way To See The World.

Let me know where you can be contacted if I ever get my Deep South trip off the ground!

Best of luck with freelance life and writing the memoir.

Gary Warner 08.01.08 | 2:12 AM ET

Tom will thrive in another venue. The real losers are the Sun-Sentinel readers. Tom will not be the last to be moved out of the way for the marketing-driven, quasi-advertising pap that passes for travel writing in so many publications these days. It’s everything Tom isn’t about.
Tom, if you see this, drop a line and say hello.

Gary Warner
Travel Editor
The Orange County Register

TambourineMan 08.01.08 | 2:44 AM ET

Sorry to hear it. I enjoyed your blog, Swick. But don’t sweat the layoff. It’s better on the outside. And President Buffoon just passed the unemployment extension last month, so you’re set for a while. Best of luck.

Lola 08.01.08 | 3:37 AM ET

This is so not cool! Definitely sad to hear.

Well, Mr. Swick has nothing to worry about in terms of new opportunities :)

Sophie 08.01.08 | 10:40 AM ET

Oh dear, oh dear. Newspapers continue to break my heart.
Stay in touch, Tom.

Julia 08.01.08 | 11:30 AM ET

I echo David, above - depressing on many levels. But I look forward to seeing Tom’s work in other venues.

jv 08.01.08 | 11:39 AM ET

Shocked, but hey—it’s the paper’s loss (and their readers’). Good luck to you, Tom.

Larry Bleiberg 08.01.08 | 11:41 AM ET

Tom’s writing always stands out. He zigs, when the rest of us zag. I’m afraid that made him an easy target.

Please keep in touch Tom, and best of luck with your projects.

Michael Yessis 08.01.08 | 11:55 AM ET

Sad news, Tom. But I’m looking forward to seeing where liberation leads you and your writing. Best of luck.

Bob Jenkins 08.01.08 | 2:36 PM ET


I’ve already groused to some of our newspaper colleagues what a shame it is that one of the incisive voices has been dismissed from his familiar post. I always enjoyed seeing your byline come across the wires—I knew THIS is something I’m putting in my travel section, to benefit the readers.
I wished you good luck, but when you’ve talent and smarts, luck follows along.

Bob Jenkins

tom swick 08.02.08 | 10:01 AM ET

Thank you all for your kind words and warm wishes. I am very touched.

Emily Rosen 08.02.08 | 10:30 AM ET

This is the glacier of cultural metamorphosis. You’ve left a hole in the aleady dying newsdpaper busiess.How very sad! - But move on we must. Long live the ‘net. This is where lemons become lemonade. Good luck—
Emily Rosen

Doug Mack 08.02.08 | 4:58 PM ET


Sad news indeed. I got addicted to your column several years ago, and I’m really going to miss getting my regular fix of your writing.  Best wishes for your book and other future projects; I’m looking forward to reading them.

I’m also incredibly grateful that you took a chance on a relatively unknown writer and gave me one of my first big breaks in the travel writing biz.  I know I’m not the only aspiring writer whom you’ve helped.  Thank you.


Sean O'Neill 08.04.08 | 5:39 PM ET

That’s exasperating news. But I’m sure that you’ll land on your feet. And your readers will find you.

Joe Walpole 08.05.08 | 12:38 AM ET


You’re a fine writer and a classy guy.  Don’t let the bastids get you down—and whatever you do, don’t let it affect your tennis game! I’ll miss your column; it was the only thing in that rag I still looked forward to.


Christina Jablonski 08.05.08 | 5:28 AM ET

I’m so sorry to hear about your job. Their loss. It was a pleasure meeting you at the festival in Melbourne. You’re such a talented writer and a thoughtful and kind man. I’ve enjoyed your stories in the Best American Writing, Unquiet Days and started reading your latest book. I wish you every success, Tom.


Christina Jablonski 08.06.08 | 1:53 AM ET

I’m so sorry to hear about your job, Tom. Their loss. It was a pleasure to meet you in Melbourne. You’re such a talented writer and a thoughtful and kind man. I’ve enjoyed your stories in the Best American Writing, Unquiet Days and started reading your latest book. I wish you every success.


Jen Leo 08.10.08 | 2:13 PM ET

Tom - I love your positive attitude!

I hope that I will still get to see you in Marin next week for the Book Passage Travel Writer & Photographers Conference.
Jim, do you know? Tom, Email me with a your new non-work email so I can keep in touch.

Poupette Smith 08.19.08 | 2:23 PM ET

Oh dear, what a shocker. First KC Summers, now you. Not sure who to feel most sorry for: you, freelance writers, or readers. Ever thought of starting a travel magazine?

Best of luck,
Poupette Smith (in Sweden)

Dave Gardner 09.08.08 | 8:55 PM ET

Sorry about the lay-off. Downsizing. Rightsizing. Whatever the new buzz-word is nowadays.  I’ve been through it many times as a writer… and like you said, the good thing about being a writer and being laid off from a job is that you can still writeno matter where you are.  Newspapers are drying up for those who submit travel articles from trips that aren’t comped.  We just have to find other outlets. Your writing is stellar—I’m sure you’ll find new adventures and new ways to tell the world about what’s happening out there.  Best of luck to you!

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.