Hosted Trips: It’s All a Matter of Principle
Hosted Press Trips – Are you in favor or not?
This topic has been tossed around for years with stands pro and con.
Discussions generally run to extremes and can get quite heated.
In the past, most salaried journalists were not allowed to participate in hosted trips.
The publishers felt it clouded their reporting. Instead, the publishers had the money to finance the trips.
The Market Has Changed
In today’s market, many of the current publishers allow food, wine and travel writers to take part in hosted trips while others (often under the same conglomerate) still don’t. Some publishers realize they need the subsidy and it doesn’t cloud the story.
In today’s market, many of the former salaried journalists are now freelancers. As freelance writers, they are faced with a new dilemma. They had been preached to for so long that hosted trips were wrong, and now, they are discovering these trips make a difference between having the experience and getting the material for stories or not.
For me, and I hope for most freelance writers, it is a matter of principle.
As President and Co-Chair of the Conference and Press Trip Committee for the International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), I secure press trips and whatever I can for our members.
We research our hosts to be sure they are offering something of value with numerous story angles. We do expect our attendees to write about the destinations. From all of the experiences offered, they should have at least one, and maybe even a dozen or more, positive experiences. Most of our members need to get more than one article out of a trip to make it worth their time.
We do not expect our writers to write a positive article about a negative experience.
Dealing With The Negative
Now I can only speak for myself on the following. I do not like to write about negative experiences. I realize that many places can have a bad day or night, or are in the process of a management change.
If I arrived at a destination and the entire experience was a disaster, I’m not sure what I’d do. That has never happened. Since I generally promote a destination before I’m leaving with anticipation of the visit, I would probably have to say something like, “I’m not the best person to cover this destination as it did not meet my own expectations.” I’ve covered one extreme to another, cost, cultural, third world to luxury. I search for “What’s good about it.”
In one situation, I was part of a trip that experienced about five well-known dining destinations. I wrote about four of them in detail. The public relations representative asked me why I didn’t cover the other restaurant. I told them, “The ambiance was great, the portions were huge, but the food taste and flavor to me were dry and did not meet my expectations. I felt it was better to not cover it than shoot down a famous location based on my palate.” She agreed.
IFWTWA includes some former full-time paid journalists for major publications who are now freelancers. They appreciate the additional insight they are gaining on press tours. They have absolutely no difficulty in providing good stories that are truthful expressions of their experiences.
Truthful expressions of experiences—that is the key.
Media Trips Aren’t Always Free
Our trips are not completely free. Our members pay a minimal registration fee and an estimated amount for gratuities based on the program. In many cases, they pay their own air. In others, air and everything else are included. Many times, we go to out of the way places that can’t afford the entire expense, so that it is up to our members to determine if they feel it is worth the investment.
In summary, if you have a strong set of principles and stick to them, your stories will have integrity. I would not exchange my integrity for any trip.
Do you accept press trips or not? Share your opinion!