We’re often asked “What’s the difference between a travel writer and a travel journalist?”.
The answer is …..not a lot.
Actually, while they are similar in many ways, the key difference is that a travel writer generally writes about a place, and does so in a way that allows the reader to visualize the experience, whereas a travel journalist generally tells a story involving people that is unique to that place, and does so in a way that relays the facts.
Both often share the narrative essay format, but Travel Writing can, and frequently does, serve as a ‘review’ (aka “service pieces”) intended to encourage travel and tourism. The intent of most Travel Journalism is to encourage a broader view and wider understanding of the world we live in. When a story takes on elements of creativity that have no basis in fact, then it’s still Travel Writing, but definitely NOT Travel Journalism!
Key Factors to Consider
First and foremost, you must love to write. You must be articulate and skilled at communicating. And it goes without saying that you must enjoy traveling, meeting people, researching facts, and crafting a compelling story from what you learn.
It’s also important to know that most media outlets have dramatically scaled back their ‘staff’ writer positions, and instead rely on freelance submissions for content. This means there are very few ‘jobs’ available and a large pool of highly qualified writers and journalists competing for them.
But don’t get discouraged! A good writer who works hard can make a decent living as a freelancer as the vast number of online media outlets, and a ceaseless demand for content, means that there are more opportunities than ever before for getting published, and there are still outlets that will pay for good quality articles and stories.
Becoming a travel journalist
- Choose the right course of study. You can go for a four-year general journalism degree at a top journalism school, which will certainly open doors, or consider an online course specifically for travel journalism (as well as travel photography) such as MatadorU, which can open the right doors.
While a degree is not necessary if you plan to remain a freelancer, if you are looking for a steady-paycheck type of job, it can make a difference. Sometimes the best way into a staff job at a media outlet is to start as an intern, and interns are often selected from an applicant pool filled with journalism or communications students. Likewise, when a job opening is announced, often the majority of applicants are those with degrees and many years of experience that qualifies them.
- Decide the type of journalism you would like to pursue such as newspapers, magazines, television, or online — each has a different style and requires different skills.
- Develop a network of other writers, editors, and publishers. The best way to do this is to attend workshops and conferences where you can continue your education, learn to improve your writing, and make new professional contacts.
- Get started! Start small, with your local paper or a local magazine – read enough back issues to see what types of stories and articles they generally published, and what they’ve not published lately – if you can provide them with something that fits, contact the editor and pitch your idea.
- Visit job boards. For example, check out freelancewriting.com.
Check out The Citizens Journal. You can post articles about anything on this website. This means you can begin to build your travel writing portfolio, obtain feedback from other writers and readers, and you have a place for uncensored citizen journalism.