CANADALAND
#185 Travel Journalism’s Dirty Little Secret
One cardinal rule of journalism is that reporters never accept incentives, be that meals, gifts, or — God forbid — money, from the subjects on whom they’re reporting. This applies across the board except, we now know, in the travel section. Travel writers used to diligently follow this standard but, as newspapers and magazines were increasingly unable or unwilling to foot expenses, these journalists were forced to find alternative sources to fund their trips. This meant cozying up to hotel chains, airlines, and tourism bureaus. If travel writers are being subsidized by the tourism industry, can the readers trust the stories? Bert Archer is arguably Canada’s most prolific travel writer and teaches the practice and ethics of travel writing at the University of Toronto. He believes journalists can maintain their editorial independence — but must walk a careful line.
May 29, 2017

One cardinal rule of journalism is that reporters never accept incentives, be that meals, gifts, or — God forbid — money, from the subjects on whom they’re reporting. This applies across the board except, we now know, in the travel section.

Travel writers used to diligently follow this standard but, as newspapers and magazines were increasingly unable or unwilling to foot expenses, these journalists were forced to find alternative sources to fund their trips. This meant cozying up to hotel chains, airlines, and tourism bureaus.

If travel writers are being subsidized by the tourism industry, can the readers trust the stories? Bert Archer is arguably Canada’s most prolific travel writer and teaches the practice and ethics of travel writing at the University of Toronto. He believes journalists can maintain their editorial independence — but must walk a careful line.

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