One of the most interesting discussions at TBEX was about whether travel blogging was real journalism. Was this online art just as good as print media? Were bloggers just as thoughtful, meticulous, and well researched as traditional writers? The infamous Chris Elliott said he saw no difference between print and online content. Blogging was just digital journalism, could be just as good as print, and should be held to the same standard. And I agree. Journalists go out of their way to say they are not bloggers and bloggers go to great pains to call themselves bloggers. Why? Journalists think bloggers aren’t as good and bloggers don’t want to be associated with “old media.” Clearly blogging is a new form of writing. To me blogging is a more casual style that discusses your thoughts, hobbies, feelings. Journalism denotes a bit more research, formality, and neutrality in your writing.
I call myself a travel blogger but I don’t think that really describes what I do. There are many travel blogs out there. But there are also many travel blogs that are more than blogs. Blogs that clearly devote more time, effort, and research into creating, for a lack of a better term, online travel guides. Many bloggers are excellent writers and approach their websites and writing with the same integrity, honesty, and research that many print journalists and travel writers do. So in some ways just calling them a blog is unfair.
I read a lot of websites over many niches. Some of the finance blogs I read are so thoroughly researched with charts and footnotes that they are worthy of academic papers. They clearly know what they are talking about and simply calling them a blog diminishes their work. I think the same can be said for many travel sites. There are many great travel blogs and they come in all shapes and sizes. While there are many “Hi I’m in Italy, it’s awesome here” blogs out there, here are a lot of travel sites who are more than that and more than “just a blog.” Travel sites who cover a a topic as well as any guidebook writer, who create comprehensive websites, and are truly experts.
I like to think of myself as an online journalist. I put a lot of time and effort into researching each post. While sometimes my writing may not be perfect (I don’t claim to be worthy of a Pulitzer), I get the numbers, I get the facts, I get the info before I write. I’m also make it a point to be even handed. My contiki post is a good example of this. I researched the numbers carefully and while I slammed them, I also said that, while not for me, Contiki is a good option for travelers. People will trust your opinion but only if you are fair.
Do you think there is a difference between travel blogging and journalism? Why? And when does a blog become more than a blog, and, in some ways, an online travel guide?