The FT held its first FT Weekend Live Festival at Kenwood House on Saturday. Speakers included Heston Blumenthal and the travel adventurer Simon Reeve.
My target was the midday travel talk and I was not disappointed. Included in the discussion were pointers on pitching travel stories to editors and lots of travel vignettes.
- The strength of the story is key
The Daily Telegraph has lots of travel pages whereas the FT is more selective. What they are both looking for are strong stories that will engage and even inspire their readers. The travel writer also has his or her own motivation and sense of what makes an enticing story: “I know what’s worth getting on a plane for” declared Sophy Roberts who has written for Conde Nast Traveller and the FT. “I find people more interesting than places”. She finds many of her most intriguing stories in Africa.
- There are travel stories right where you are
Journalists look for what’s counterintuitive and ‘different’. Tom Robbins, FT’s Travel Editor, pointed out that he gets way more pitches for ‘exotic’ places than (for example) France. There are places in Europe that don’t get written about, whilst the least visited country is Moldova, he pointed out.
- “Travel writing will never die. It can’t”
…declared travel writer Horatio Clare. But it may take different forms. The rise of the travel blogger wasn’t really discussed, but Sophy did express concerns over TripAdvisor’s influence. Still, opportunities abound for those determined to write and share their travel experiences.
- There will be conflict between writing for the company that paid for your trip and writing for the reader
The panellists didn’t deny this pressure and all found their own ways to mitigate it as much as they could. Writer Tim Moore goes off and writes travel books paid for (initially) from his own pocket. Sophy Roberts will pay for a trip herself if she feels really passionate about a particular place. Horatio Clare ‘doesn’t go as a journalist but as a tourist’ and writes about his experience from the viewpoint of a celebrant.