More than ever, media practitioners are doing business in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile towards them. Their mission must become one which shows there are still some positives in the world and to allay any fears people might have, especially when it comes to visiting other countries.
President of the Society of American Travel Writers Pauline Frommer made this point as she addressed the annual conference of that association at the Hilton Barbados this week. Frommer, Co-President of Frommer LLC, a company her father formed which produces travel guidebooks, said, “It is increasingly important for us not only to shape an individual traveller’s experience, but if we do our jobs correctly, we might be able to change ideologies.”
Frommer noted that, “A couple of generations ago, people travelled owing to war, disease or famine, not for pleasure. People don’t realize how good they have it now and because of this, we are going backwards. There is a wave of nationalism which can be called tribalism all over the world. As a result, there are countries where governments are either taking over the press or trying to shut it down, and the current 24-hour news cycle and social media bombard us daily with how bad things are.”
Continuing this point, she noted that, “People estimate the probability of an event by the ease of which these things come to mind. For example, if they see murders on TV every day, they feel murders are going up, and people get scared of flying whenever there is a plane crash. Right now, there are several countries in the world with travel advisories against the United States, owing to gun crimes and racism. We, as travel writers, can act as a counter balance, write about what is going right in the world, using our abilities to talk about how people are solving their problems, and highlight the world’s culture and its beauty.”
Frommer also advised writers to learn from each other in terms of developing their craft. “I was fortunate to have my father help me develop my skills when I first started in this business. He taught me how to structure it and how to make it better. He taught me to read the book out loud, and to give it an earlier deadline to read it like an editor would. We still mentor people at Frommer’s and other places, but for so many of the brilliant young writers on blogs, you are still in a bubble, you won’t get the comments your writing colleagues will get, which will educate you on how to structure your words, among other things. When you meet with your colleagues in this field, do a little “show me yours and I’ll show you mine”; make connections with fellow writers, show them your work – there’s nothing better than having a colleague look at your work and be honest with it.”
The Society of Travel Writers, which was established in 1955, is the oldest organization of its kind in the world, and this year’s conference is the first one being held in the Caribbean. Some 235 writers from across the United States, Canada, and further afield, are in Barbados for a week of activities as well as training sessions. (DH)