My colleagues and I travel for work. Not a bad gig. But we never take it for granted — or forget that at its core, our job is to travel for our readers. That informs our choices on where we go (your ideas are welcome) and how we travel, which is to pay our way, like you do.
Our conflict-of-interest policy, which freelance writers also follow, requires that we decline press trips, those free sponsored junkets offered to members of the media in exchange for stories. Nor do we accept reduced press rates. We try to travel without sharing the knowledge of our mission.
Our goal is to experience a place the way a reader might, without the sugarcoated privilege that can come to travel writers. The act of getting special treatment could make a writer feel beholden to his or her host. It could also generate a false impression of a place.
About once a month, I get invited on a press trip. Without fail, my answer is a firm “no, but thanks.” I usually reply so instinctively that I don’t even have time to contemplate how cool the trip would be. But sometimes, I feel a little wistful. An architecture tour of Montreal? I want. A trip to Iceland and Greenland aboard a small luxury cruise ship? Am I nuts to say no?
Not nutty at all.
Our travel writers strive to give readers the honest truth about a place. We can’t get that if we’re being pampered by those who want to promote a location, whether it is a new hotel or an entire city.
Other local media outlets may not share our philosophy. Ditto national magazines. I’ve worked at a few and saw editors pack their bags for sponsored trips without qualms.
But at the Star Tribune, we want to experience a place the same way our readers would if they chose to follow in our footsteps, not with a free pass to the best room in the hotel.
If there is a destination you’d like to learn about, let us know and we’ll try to get there. (Just don’t offer us freebies.)
Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.