I’m bored reading about people beating themselves up regarding the ethics of travel blogging. I’m bored with those people who point long accusing fingers at blog/press trips, shouting ‘corruption, corruption, corruption’ from atop their self-made ivory towers. I’m bored with the hypocrisy of those travel writers who take a pop at travel bloggers for accepting blog trips whilst turning a blind eye to their colleagues who do it all the time for print. And I’m bored sick with sycophancy.
The Purity of Travel Blogging
I’m not even sure what that means. There’s an argument out there that making money from your blog, or from your writing, means it’s less pure (i.e. honest I suppose). I just don’t get that. It doesn’t make sense. I’m willing to bet nobody goes up to Paul Theroux and says “well, I like your books but you did get paid to write them so I guess I can’t really trust what’s in them.”
Sometimes I write for money, sometimes I write for myself, sometimes I write for myself and that makes money. I change the style depending on who I’m writing for and the market it’s aimed at. But here’s the important thing. I don’t take off my ‘pure’ hat and put on one with ‘I’ve prostituted myself’ written on it when I start to pen something that’s going to earn me some dosh. Integrity is integrity is integrity. You either have it or you don’t.
I apply exactly the same ethics to everything I do, not just writing. It’s automatic; I don’t have a choice as I have Scottish Presbyterian roots (joke for anyone who knows Scottish Presbyterians).
Unless you’re very privileged, you need to earn money to live. That isn’t a crime… at least it isn’t for most occupations and it shouldn’t be for travel bloggers. Any notion otherwise is nonsensical.
To me the question isn’t about the ethics of making money from travel blogging, the question is more about the depth of conviction of personal ethics. I sleep happily at night with mine.
The Corruption and Deception of Blog Trips
Since our very first holiday together, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed nearly all of our travel experiences. If blogging was around then we’d have raved about most things. We love to travel.
That love of travel and having new experiences hasn’t changed. It doesn’t change whether we’re on a self-financed trip, a working trip or a blog/press trip. If we like something, we’re going to say so. On the rare occasion we don’t like something, we also say so. If it’s on a blog trip we might choose to not write about it. On one trip there was an experience that didn’t really work for anyone. There was no group decision about how everyone was going to handle it but not one person ended up promoting the place in question. I guess we all applied the same ethics.
The majority of the time it simply isn’t an issue. I don’t see what’s corrupt or deceptive regarding writing about things you enjoy. In fact it would be perverse and actually more dishonest not to do so.
I’ve just read an introduction to an interview with a travel blogger that made me cringe with discomfort. It was the pinnacle of sycophantic crawling. I felt embarrassment for the person who wrote it and amazement that the person it was about didn’t ask the author to tone it down – maybe it was too tasty an ego feeder. But it was way over the top.
I mention it because for me it links to the subject matter of this blog which, ultimately, is all about personal integrity. If the author truly believed what they wrote then fine, I’m out of line and my personal prejudice got in the way. If they wrote it to curry favour, which is the way it came across, then it raises doubts for me about their all-round personal integrity.
And that’s the point. I, and hopefully most discerning readers, don’t decide whether to trust or like what someone writes based on whether the blog/article was commissioned, was as a result of an all expenses paid blog trip or came from a self-financed jaunt.
I make that decision based purely on the content I’m reading, nothing else.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+