It’s widely considered a no-no for journalists to accept payment for coverage of a story. Imagine if the White House paid the Associated Press to cover their latest briefing? Or if Ford paid a Motor Trend reporter to cover their newest electric vehicle?
However, it’s becoming more and more common for travel writers to take trips that are hosted wholly or in part by destination tourism marketers, hoteliers, restaurateurs, attractions or some combination of them. To a very large degree it’s a matter of economics. Travel publications as well as gay media outlets in general are folding left and right, and travel budgets and purchased-content budgets are being slashed or eliminated.
Dedicated travel editors and journalists are often in a bind. They may have to decide between taking a media visit that is subsidized by the destination (hotel, attraction, etc.) they would like to cover or not covering it at all, thus deeply disappointing their readers if not losing them to another media outlet. Many travel journalists are opting out of the field entirely. As a travel editor and writer, I have accepted media visits that are paid in part by the destination, hotels, events, etc. that I’m covering. I do so because there are many important stories to tell and this is one of the most effective ways of doing so given the current state of the economy, budgets, and the media industry.
Crucially though, I only do so with two simple but important criteria: There is no guarantee of coverage and no guarantee of favorable coverage. Stated authentically and formally prior to accepting an arranged media visit, any trip ‘sponsor’ knows that they take a risk in terms of the coverage that I will provide. This is not advertorial, and I consider myself completely free to provide unbiased, honest coverage.
My responsibility is first and solely to my readers not to any PR or marketing representatives. It is for the gay or lesbian traveler (or their straight friend) interested in possibly planning a trip to a particular destination, a stay at a hotel, or even just a meal in a restaurant to get the most accurate picture of what they may anticipate so they are empowered to make the best travel-related decision.
The most important responsibility I have as a gay travel journalist is how ‘gay friendly’ (or not) the destination, lodging, eatery, attraction, or event is. Many gay and lesbian travelers (solo, in couples or in groups) take a trip (or book a hotel, visit an attraction, reserve a dinner) based on my recommendations. Their comfort and even security is, in part, in my hands. My duty is to provide them with information to help them make a well-informed decision.