Is Travel Blogging Real Journalism?

By Nomadic Matt | Published August 17th, 2009

Blogging OnlineOne 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?

comments 41 Comments

Pauline F

Here’s what I think is the fundamental difference between “citizen journalists” and “journalist journalists”–and this goes for hard news as well as travel: Funding. Back in the day, the “journalist journalists” had the funding to do the type of in-depth, on-site reporting that is not usually a hallmark of blogs. Unfortunately, with so much free content out there, and the traditional sources losing their revenue streams, it’s not as clear anymore whether the journalists still have the resources to do the job thoroughly.

I’d also argue that another fundamental difference is: lack of editing. Journalists always have someone looking over their work and that extra eye can be quite valuable, not only in sharpening the quality of the writing, but in giving the journalist feedback about when they could be digging deeper with their research; or questions that aren’t being answered by their pieces.

A final difference: training. In j-schools and in newsrooms across the US, journalists pick up info about journalistic ethics, methods of research, etc. While some bloggers are really terrific, despite their lack of formal training, others don’t have a clue about what it means to be impartial; to do full research; etc.

Bottom line: I think there’s room for both types of content. But I do worry that the spread of free content is killing traditional journalism, and I think that’s dangerous.

There’s a huge difference between most travel blogging and journalism. It’s got nothing to do with the medium – whether it’s online or in print is not the matter.

It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other but journalism is primarily about reporting other people’s stories and travel blogging – or indeed the personal travel essay you might write for a literary magazine – is more concerned with telling your own. I like both.

It’s like saying ‘is a hamburger the same thing as a pizza and if not, does that mean it’s not as good as a pizza, and will it one day replace the pizza?’ It’s a nonsensical question.

Sometimes travel blogs are packed with information like a guidebook. I’m not convinced guidebook writing is journalism either, though it certainly draws on some of the same skills. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way – writing a guide book is hard work and I have full respect for anyone who does it, but it’s never occurred to me that a guidebook is journalism.

Travel blogs and journalism are in competition for readers’ time and (sometimes) advertising dollars but this doesn’t mean they are both trying to do the same thing. Video games also compete for our time but no one is asking if they are journalism too.

The reason the lines blur is because they both deal with the written word and because some journalists write blogs and because some blogs have lots of information. But just because there’s overlap, doesn’t mean they are wholly the same. Baseball and football are both games played with a ball that attract audiences to a stadium – they have a lot in common but they are not the same.

I do agree with Chris Elliot that blogging should be held to journalistic standards. I’m not sure how that would be enforced in any practical sense but readers should have as much information as possible to know whether the information they’re getting is impartial or not.

Journalism is journalism, whether it appears online or offline. We can argue about training and editing and objectivity until the cows come home, but when it’s all said and done, we are still basically talking about the same thing.

Now … there are good travel blogs and bad ones, just as there are good and bad newspapers, guide books and magazines.

The point I made at TBEX was that we should avoid drawing a distinction between travel blogging and journalism, because it lets travel bloggers off the hook, to basically do whatever they want to, and to say, “Hey, it’s OK, we’re not real journalists anyway.”

Well, whether you like it or not, you are. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say you are the future of journalism.

On the flip side, I noted that a lot of mainstream media like to set themselves apart as well, in part because they feel threatened by bloggers, and in part (paradoxically) because they feel superior to them. That, too, is a wrongheaded approach.

It’s not a different craft — it’s just a different medium.

As a classically-trained journalist (J-school, internships, MSM jobs, etc), I sincerely believe we oldtimers have a lot to learn from online journalists and bloggers. Those who want to continue marginalizing travel blogging will miss out on some of those important lessons. But travel bloggers also have a thing or two to learn about good writing and reporting.

We can’t learn from each other if we build artificial walls.

Hi Chris, your comment is nesting under mine but I’m not 100% sure if it’s meant to be in reply to me.

I completely agree that journalism is journalism online or offline. I just don’t think that everything online is journalism, just as not everything in print is journalism.

Blogging is just a tool and a platform and a medium so some blogging is journalism, sure. It doesn’t mean it all is.

I don’t really understand the point of the question. To me it’s a false dichotomy, like Superman versus Batman, or Sydney versus Melbourne / LA versus NYC.

“It’s not a different craft — it’s just a different medium.”

It can be a different craft too. The craft is not bound to the medium but nor is the medium bound to the craft.

Take printed books that you see in a book store. Some of those books contain journalism and some of them contain novels.

I’m certainly not trying to assert superiority of journalism over blogging but I think 90% of blogging is not journalism and in most cases, nor is it trying to be. Which is fine – it doesn’t mean that I don’t love blogs!

Hi Matt – I really appreciate Chris Elliott’s comment above. Good perspective from one who might not necessarily feel that way. I’m not sure how everyone’s definition of journalism might overlap, but I do agree that blogs and social media represent a reset of journalistic outlets into the more immediate as well as the interactive.

I support my personal experiences and perspective by researching my posts for historical/other context and corroboration, and I value the comments we get. I think your readership will hold you to the standards you set. Lower them and your current readership will migrate. Whether you attract new readers with different expectations would all depend, no? And the negative effect of any fear-based assessment regarding competing media would be additional polarization – certainly not helpful if there is a transition when one is looking for a place to land.

@Caitlin – I’m not sure that impartiality should have universal journalistic application, particularly in travel reportage. It appears to be a difficult if not impossible standard, depending upon the subject matter, to meet. Acknowledging one’s biases seems more honest. What passes for impartiality in certain mainstream outlets is astonishing.

@Betsy Yes, I think that acknowledging your biases is a good approach. What I really meant was the reader should ideally have some information know whether the blogger is telling us what they really think or if there is another agenda. By “impartial”, I didn’t mean “objectivity” in the journalistic sense.

There’s definitely a difference, but it’s a blurred line. Technically speaking, journalist are supposed to abide by a set of ethical rules (doesn’t always happen though). There are definitely some bloggers that I would classify as professional journalists and travel writers. But it seems that most of the bloggers that I would put in that category also publish some of their writing in print publications.

Kudos to Chris Elliot. Yes, we have a lot to learn from each other. I don’t think that will happen anytime soon with the animosity from both sides of the fence.

Isn’t it about public perception as well? The public, generally, doesn’t view bloggers as journalists. A site with “Blog” in the title isn’t as respected as “network” news. That’s hogwash, but “Blog” has negative connotations. Say “Blog” and people think of God-awful sites on Blogger about angst-ridden 16-year-olds or cute photos of cats.

And self-perception. How do you think of yourself? Do you tell people you’re a blogger, or a travel writer with a web site?

Food for thought, thanks Matt.

Craig

This one was sure to get comments flowing! In part, I agree with Pauline F above: funding, fact-checking and training are key ingredients to journalism. At Indie Travel Podcast we lack the first, but each article is read by at least two people plus the author before it’s published. We are working towards funding for an independent fact-checker or a second sub-editor/fact checker on staff. As an independent publisher it can be tough, but we feel this is the kind of professional approach that helps us produce excellent content.

Perhaps this travel blogger/journalist debate is only one of countless “traditionally recognised vs. web savvy entrepreneur” parallels. Traditional retailers vs online only stores, estate agents vs internet home sales, and maybe the biggest of all, travel agents vs DIY online sales.

The internet is enabling the masses to bypass traditional formal routes to setting up a business, and allowing them to compete against qualifications and experience, using their technology skills to reach customers in new and exciting ways. Caveat emptor has never been more apt. But is that such a bad thing?

The responsibility for deciding the quality of a product or service is now passed firmly to the end user. In the debate of blogger vs journo, the reader is empowered to view online sources and believe them or not, to cross-reference them with others and/or guide books and articles written by professionally qualified journalists. It is no longer enough for someone to hold up their experience or certificates as an entitlement to be heard and respected. And that’s the way I feel it should be.

In it’s purest form, this is a shift towards a meritocracy where the consumer is able to choose the media that best responds to their individual tastes and needs. It is up to us, whether we are professionals, hobby writers or half-bit ex-business writers and addicted travellers trying to make a living out their passion (no secrets where I lay my hat), to listen to those who might read our output and produce writing of value to our audience.

To answer the original question “Is travel blogging real journalism?” we need a clear unambiguous definition of REAL journalism. Anyone care to start us off?

PS Chris Elliott might be famous but why is he infamous? Is the word being used tongue in cheek or is there something I don’t know about?

NomadicMatt

It’s just a figure of speech.

interesting, matt – i was there and loved hearing chris speak. i, too, didn’t get why people were SO INTO discerning the difference. people will weed out the stuff they don’t want to read and keep coming back to the writers they enjoy and/or use as a resource. the name, to me, is irrelevant.

NomadicMatt

A rose by any other name is still a rose

I, like many people who’ve commented, like Chris’ comments here as well. Many travel bloggers, including myself, put a lot of research and effort into their posts – and there are plenty of travel blogging journalists out there. Not the ‘that trip was awesome’ folks so much though…

The definition of journalism may simply evolve, with no official declaration of some new meaning, much the way that words are created and added to the lexicon simply because they are repeated by others. However, until it becomes commonly accepted to mean something else, I believe most writers would agree that “real” journalism is factual reporting of news or commentary, with the occasional opinion to help readers make sense of the information.

I disagree with the notion that the word “blog” still holds negative connotation and that “bloggers” are generally assumed to be nothing more than angst-ridden 16 year olds, those obsessed with cute cats, or bored moms posting recipes. Given that every major news media outlet employs professional bloggers, along with an army of unpaid contributors, it seems clear to me that conventional thinking is shifting back toward what the original definition of a “blog” was – simply a web log that was designed to allow for timely, chronological posting of content relevant to the subject matter of the site it was posted to. An improved method of distributing content over the bulletin boards and newsgroups of years past.

So the original question, “Is Travel Blogging Real Journalism?”, should be a simple one to answer: Yes, if the travel blog in question is factually reporting on news or commentary or opinion, and not simply offering a narrative-style travel essay (which can be highly subjective, almost impossible to fact-check, and potentially at least partly, if not fully, fictionalized), or a service piece (a brochure, whether online or off, is not journalism, it’s simply copywriting).

And yet there will always be controversy surrounding the “online vs. offline” debate, along with some VERY thoughtful, logical, and well expressed opinions supporting both sides, as the previous comments bear out (and what an amazing testament to the best aspect of online journalism – the ability for readers to converse in near real-time, a lightning fast “letter to the editor”). The discussion of this controversy will simply change to reflect the changing definition of journalism, as the internet continues to drive evolution of all communication.

Great post Matt, once again a very simple topic very well discussed.

There is a distinction. Blogging is still relatively new and the definitions of author, writer, journalist and blogger are quite grey.

Many journos these days, especialy the more famous ones, will have a blog of some sort on their employer website – probably to express opinoins that normal journalism laws wont allow (particulalry in the UK). This matches your theory that blogs are a home for thoughts, hobbies & feelings.

If I were to pigeon hole you it would be ‘Travel Writer’. You write blogs and articles on travel.

Keep it up!

Andy

I see a distinct difference between blogging and traditional journalism. As a blogger, I can say whatever I want about anything I want and only my readers can call me out if I get something wrong or am off-base. That’s not true in traditional journalism. When I write for print, I have an editor (or several), at least one fact-checker, and the entire print-media staff out to make sure that absolutely every word I’ve written is well-chosen, accurate, unbiased, and precise.

It’s that solitude as a blogger which can be trouble. Bloggers can start and fan baseless rumors and attract a fervent following. They can spread misinformation, and no one will censor them. They don’t have to have two sources for each piece of information. Nor are they fired for plagiarism or for publishing photos without attribution or for any number of other forms of information theft. And there can be a snarkiness to blogging which is weeded out of traditional journalistic outlets (at least the good ones). Additionally, bloggers can, and do, accept payment for placed articles, links, etc blurring the lines between advertising and journalism which is forbidden — for good reason — in traditional media.

Having said all of that, I am a blogger, and I take pride in what I do. I approach everything I write with the same integrity and care that I apply to my print writing. And I know many bloggers who do the same. But that’s not true of all bloggers (and certainly there are some journalists out there to whom those standards don’t apply either).

Perhaps rather than saying that there is no difference between blogging and journalism, it should be said that bloggers should write as if they are journalists and hold themselves to the same standards of ethics, writing quality, and truthfulness.

Angela is right except for one thing – fact-checkers are an American invention. British and Australian magazines and newspapers do not employ fact-checkers. They trust the reporter to get the facts right and if they don’t, they won’t use them again. Of course, the work is still reviewed by the editor and sub-editors (copy editors) before publication and they’ll be looking for things that seem obviously wrong.

I just wanted to touch on another point. Everyone seems to be assuming that all travel writing in a print publication is journalism. I don’t think it is. There are also personal travel essays.

If you write about spending a night stranded on a mountain and reaching an epiphany, or about a bus ride with an old Syrian lady and how that made you reflect on your relationship with your mother, it might be wonderful, moving writing and it might all be 100% true and factual, but I don’t think it’s journalism.

To me, journalism looks outward, while some of the best non-journalistic travel writing looks inward.

I am a journalist already but I aspire to do the second style of writing really well. I don’t do it on my blog so much, mainly because I’d rather sell it and make a living as well.

While there are blogs out there that exist solely as someone’s online diary of his or her trips, if you’re creating a travel blog that’s supposed to be informative and thoughtful, you as the writer SHOULD stick to journalistic principles of honesty, fairness and truth. Of course, I’m biased, having spent 20 years as an on-staff and freelance reporter. People trolling the Internet often find our blogs because they’re planning trips, wondering how they’ll be received when they visit other cities and countries — and although our blogs ARE personal, they deserve to know the information they’re reading is factual and authentic, even when we’re sharing our opinions.

It often takes me a long time to post on my blog because I put as much thought into these as I would if I were writing an article for the Chicago Sun-Times, Arizona Republic, or The Oregonian — places where I’ve been on staff. I would never want anyone reading anything under my name to be less than first-rate, whether I’ve got an official “byline” or whether I’m posting it on a blog. It comes down to personal integrity — and if you don’t have that, you’re pretty much lost in the first place.

Great discussion going on with terrific observations. One point that needs to be made is that there are 100 million, yes million, blogs, according to Technorati. Since anybody can be a blogger — and almost everyone is — that tends to minimize the value of a blog because blogs become commoditized. As a result, the opinion of bloggers in general is diminished, whether they adhere to journalistic standards or not. The good blogs will rise to the surface and accrue their own value, like any good journalistic product. But meanwhile, given that eight-year-olds can blog, serious bloggers are up against the stigma that “anybody can blog.”

The Global Traveller

Thanks Matt for the post sparking such great discussion.

I think that journalism and blogging can be considered from the perspective that they are both means of delivering content, and as Caitlin points out there are other methods too. When viewed this way, I see them as being quite distinct (in general) as the characteristics that define something as journalism or blogging or other forms of travel writing are different.

Yes, for any given piece there could be overlap. But in general I think blogging is different to journalism. That doesn’t make either better or worse – in some situations journalism would be better and in others blogging, and bad writing in either method is bad writing.

One aspect I find fascinating is observing how over time we are getting ever more ways to have content delivered to us. This makes it much easier to understand information because if you have trouble accessing or learning in one form there are others you can use instead.

Great post. A little thought provoking. Just like there are serious bloggers who spend time and research on their posts like you and I, and there are casual bloggers, the micro-bloggers if you will, journalism has two types of journalists. Those that are serious, write well and do extensive research, and those that are average. Some people who go through Journalism school certainly deserve the distinction between being a journalist versus a blogger. I agree though that the lines are getting greyer and greyer.

Donna Hull

This is a wonderful discussion. Thanks, Matt, for writing a post to start the conversation.

I agree with Chris Elliott. I consider myself a journalist first, blogger second. My blog is written within the concepts of good journalism. I research, vet the facts, make sure the spellings are correct, then read and re-read many times before I push that publish button. I also make it clear to my readers that the experiences that I’m relaying to them are based upon my own personal experience.

I think it’s every blogger’s obligation, even if they’re writing a subjective essay, to make sure that they are not relaying false facts, innuendos or gossip. There are still many readers out there who are not discerning. They believe that if it’s printed, reported on radio or TV, yes, even on a blog, then it must be true.

One action that I’ve been planning to take is to publish an “editorial policy” page on my blog. On it, I’ll explain my writing ethics plus tell my readers how I view my responsibilities to them. I believe that a reader should be able to tell within a couple of minutes on your blog, where you stand. Are you reporting facts and experiences? Are you writing experiential essays? It should be clear to them. Then, they can decide whether you are worth reading or not.

Thanks again, Matt, for the chance to discuss an important topic.

NomadicMatt

Thank you everyone for the great discussion. I’m preparing for another trip around the globe so have been to busy to really answer many of these comments but I’ve read them and I have enjoyed the opinions and discussions you’ve had amongst yourself!

I don’t necessarily agree with the statement “Journalism denotes a bit more research, formality, and neutrality in your writing,” or at least, this is the way it should be, but it isn’t the case. I am a fully trained journalist, graduated in journalism, done two years apprenticeship, necessary in Italy to access the public examination to be registered in the national order of journalists and worked in national newspapers, magazines and press agencies. The way staff journalists do research is waiting for the press release from the police or a given court in case of crime news, the parliament in case of political news and so and so forth.

I might be too romantic, but to me this is not the proper way to do journalism. Outstanding examples of investigative journalism aside, most of the papers we read are written by journalists who spend their days sitting in front of a desk. Bloggers have more attitude to go and find out by themselves. Of course I’m not talking about personal journals, but there are really well crafted blogs on the net, with a proper and first-hand research behind.

The benefits staff journalists have that bloggers might miss is an easier access to information or to VIPs for exclusive interviews, but too often mainstream articles lack of the personal twist that makes most blogs more “authentic.”

Ant

When does a blog become more than a blog, and, in some ways, an online travel guide?

A blog is writing about a passion (in our case, travel), and it becomes an online guide when you develop an equal passion for the journalistic content; text, images, layout. Ergo, you become an editor, complete with a critical eye, and your finger on the pulse of your chosen market.

I’m not sure what fills the void between our blogs and the big travel sites? Therefore, unless bloggers actually want to be paid writers (which presumably, many don’t) they’re always going to be stigmatised with being a blogger.

I recently applied for some writing jobs and got a real wake up call about the opinion of real world media compared with online blogs. I think there will emerge a new term for dedicated bloggers, that doesn’t sound so geeky.

Blogs have definitely moved beyond the on line diary format. I’d be proud to be called a blogger but I wouldn’t say I’m a journalist.

My perception is that journalism is more about writing whereas blogging now is about so much more – photography, video, podcasting, tweeting. Blogging is multi-media for me.

Having said that, I did use the J word when I was desperate to find a hire car on holiday recently when they were all booked up – but it didn’t make any difference!

Journalism these days is definitely multimedia. It’s a process not a medium. Photography, video, podcasting and even tweeting can all be part of journalism. They certainly are at many of the places I’ve worked. Even back in the old days, before blogs, newspapers employed photojournalists and TV and radio stations employed broadcast journalists.

Mara

I understand the concern that blogs may be crowding out traditional journalism, but I would argue that this is partly the fault of the traditional media who have been slow and defensive in their response to the online boom. Obviously there are lots of blogs out there that are not very well researched or written. But in my experience it’s fairly easy to discern which ones have value.

As a travel blogger, I’m not trying to create a guidebook. I’m trying to write well and share things from my point of view. I offer my opinions and my stories in the hopes that they will inspire and inform other parents who want to travel with their kids. I’m very focused on my audience. I check facts where I’m making assertions. I edit my own work (although I find this to be challenging and mistakes do slip through the cracks). At the end of the day I don’t call myself a journalist, but a writer. My blog reflects my craft, and as such I hold it to high standards of integrity and quality. I hope that my blog is fun to read and that it serves a complementary role to guidebooks, how-to sites, and traditional media outlets. I’d like to think that we can all coexist peacefully. So I guess I’m agreeing with the idea that distinguishing between the two types of content is a false dichotomy.

One thing I’m struggling with as a blogger is the need to wear all the hats. I’m not a photographer (and have never really wanted to be one) nor am I a videographer. My education and professional experience all have to do with the written word, and I think that shows on my blog. But again, because of the diverse number of outlets available, I hope that users can go other places to find high quality photos and video content. To me that’s the beauty of the Internet.

Thanks for writing about this Matt, I agree that was a really interesting TBEX panel discussion.

I thought that really interesting points were also brought up by Jen Leo and Wendy Perrin on that panel, when they said that a big difference between blogging and journalism CAN be (but isn’t, necessarily) that there are teams of people fact-checking, grammar-checking/spell-checking and basically sanity-checking the information for the writer before the piece is published.

Remember Wendy even made the comment that it was a bit strange for her to click “publish” on her blog and know that she was connecting with her readers immediately vs. 3 months into the future, which in the travel industry is huge!

You’re really good about checking facts, etc but there certainly isn’t any “blogger patrol” out there that makes us do it :o). I think bloggers build their own reader trust, one reader at a time, and bloggers who have a larger readership probably spend more time fact-checking and grammar-checking and just making sure the posts are interesting, flow and are easy to read. I think the bottom line is that if Conde’ Nast, the Sun Times and bloggers spend time making sure content is easy to read and accurate, readership will grow, whether on line or in print.

I think it depends no the person’s background. Some people don’t have a journalism background and some do, and I think that makes a difference in how they approach things. I was formally trained in journalism and have held editorial positions at publications, so I feel like I am more cautious about making sure my facts are right, more interested in getting interviews and quotes, etc. than some people who were not trained and just like to write. (My blog is brand new so I haven’t had the chance to do interviews or cover news yet, but I plan to do so regularly).

But regardless of your background, some journalists have blogs that don’t have much research or interviews, and are more of a personal travelogue. That’s fine, but not really journalism. I think if you cover news, use some quotes, and do some interviews (and have at least some original research) you can consider yourself a journalist for the most part. But if you just write about your own adventures without any research, industry news, or interviews/quotes, it’s not journalism — it’s more of a personal travelogue.

Nothing wrong with either, and I think a blog can be both. But sometimes a blog is definitely not journalism — it’s more like a public diary.

pam

Okay, I’ll bite.

First, I’m an editorial nitpicker. “Real” journalism as opposed to fake journalism? More accurately, the question might be rephrased as “Is travel blogging journalism?” And I think the answer is… it depends.

I don’t buy into the idea that you have to have an editorial staff to be called a journalist. That’s not the arbiter for me. What draws the distinction in my mind — YMMV, etc — is the type of work you’re producing.

If I’m just spinning a yarn, well, that’s not really “reporting”, it’s storytelling. If I’m doing the work to unravel the back story — getting the numbers, too, as you mention, then yeah, I think that’s journalism. Understand that I’m not saying one is superior to the other plus, I LOVE storytelling.

If you’re writing some kind of reporting and doing so on your blog then, yup, it’s journalism. If you’re just rabbiting on about your trip, not so much so. Guidebook writing? Not journalism, just a collection of facts and advice mostly. Reporting on travel trends and backing that up? Yeah, journalism.

I don’t care about the format. Blog, magazine, newspaper, whatever. There’s lots of stuff in ALL formats that isn’t journalism, it’s writing of another flavor.

Now whether it’s any GOOD, there’s another issue entirely.

I always wonder at questions like this … Are we bloggers, journalists, travel writers? Who cares?

Why does a role have to be so strictly defined? Why is there a need for putting people in the blogger box, the journalism box, the writer box, or the box within a box …? I don’t get it.

Back when the internet, and then the web, opened up to the public in 1994 or so, I relished in the concept of finally being given the space to move about without being defined by someone else’s label. And ever since that day, people have been getting on the web and defining things, labeling things, expecting things. It drives me crazy.

The beauty of the internet, and the web, is that you can be what you want to be. You can define yourself. And if people get you, they follow you. I think that’s the only thing anyone needs to be concerned about.

NomadicMatt

That is an excellent point!

Travel writing — whether it appears in blogs, newspapers, TV, radio, stone tablets (I don’t care) — has one key advantage over regular journalism: travel writers are everywhere, always. While journalists chase ‘news events’ — a mudslide, an airline crash, a war — travel never stops. It’s there before, during AND after an event.

That means, often, lingering misperceptions of a place — eg ‘it’s not safe for Americans to go to Vietnam’ (circa 1995), or ‘you’ll get kidnapped in Colombia’ (circa 2005 to present) — are first broken by travel writers, not ‘regular’ journalists.

Spud Hilton

Sorry, Matt. Not wading deep into this discussion for the same reason I didn’t at TBEX — the terms are too broad. There’s plenty of overlap between the two and there’s just as much difference. One is a set of standards applied to a discipline and a set of jobs; the other is a format for spreading information. Add to that the various kinds of both travel blogging and print travel writing: travel news, travel narrative, travel essay, travel consumer news, consumer advocacy, travel advice, personal essay abroad, travel chronicle and last (and certainly least) the masterbatory blather of rehashing a travel diary (found in both print and blog). While there are plenty of legitimate discussions to be had about the future of travel journalism, the question at the heart of this one is flawed at best.

NomadicMatt

I agree that is a relatively pointless argument. Blogging is writing. Chris said it best.

I had this exact question while signing up for Travel Blog Exchange. It was one of their questions. I feel travel blogging is more of the writer’s experience than travel journalism, which is more impartial. But then again, isn’t the writer’s experience travel journalism? Maybe it is all journalism, just in different ways – as heavy metal is not chamber music, but it is all music. OK, so which one do I say I am?!?

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