If we wish to develop
responsible travel, investment in fair trade in travel writing
and photography ought to be a priority. Responsible travel,
ecotourism and sustainable travel deserve quality press. That
said, there are few incentives for travel writers and photographers
to provide top-notch coverage. Here's our proposal:
Item one. Every year I receive a dozen requests for photos.
When ask for payment, small magazine publishers and academic
press tend to respond with an apology followed by an explanation
why they cannot pay for pictures. I make a few exceptions, but
take a look at the big picture. Without payment, what incentive
do I have to document markets, rural tourism operators and environmental
Item two. A colleague suggests that a UK publishing house might
be interested in a new edition of my Mexico guidebook. Personally,
I am flattered. It would be great to update my Mexico
guidebook. That said, would it be profitable?
His response: "Guidebooks don't appear to make money for
Anecdotal evidence from about two dozen guidebook writers and
editors suggest that professionals are being paid less for doing
more work in 2007. Says one author: "I turned down the
next edition because the pay offer was actually a reduction
and they want 56 extra pages. Not happy about that."
The result -- lack of continuity. The new author -- paid less
-- starts from scratch. Neither readers nor the community have
a chance to build relations with the author.
Another published author says that the problem is writing quality
materials: "what I want to write, no one will pay for ...
what they will pay for are articles I don't care to write."
Colleagues at a daily newspaper take pride in their travel
section. They say, however, that the section is disregarded
as 'soft' news.
"Our colleagues ought to respect our work," reporters
say, explaining that investigative travel writing documents
economic and cultural trends, all with the goal of informing
their readers, aka travelers, valuable stakeholders.
Nevertheless, travel writing is not treated with much respect.
STONES IN THE ROAD
Another writer, an accomplished editor, complains that government
offices rarely provide useful information in a timely manner.
"It's like getting blood from a stone," he says.
A travel writer grows tired of diminishing paychecks and increased
responsibilities. When asked why he doesn't quit, he explains
'I don't have better paying options.'
Professional media also complain about universities. Academic
publication is usually conducted in a manner that pays the writer
zero or in copies of the publication.
While this works for full-time academics, it precludes professional
writers or researchers who expect to be paid for their efforts.
Worse, travel and research grants are usually limited to academics,
precluding media from conducting research that could be recycled
as both travel features and academic work.
We would like to team up with local and national governments
to convene a series of round table dialogues as suggested during
Environment and Tourism Conference. These dialogues should
begin online, move to a physical space (ideally a tourism conference)
and follow the progress online for at least six months.
Find ways of montetizing open
journalism, particularly if it allows contributors to be
able to voice a mix of viewpoints. Foundations
and development agencies should hire qualified journalists
and photographers to provide public documentation of responsible
travel and ecotourism without being the project cheerleader.
Guaranteeing independence is the only way to insure the integrity
of the reporting.