Steve Jones’ Say – July 2017

Steve Jones explores how the industry views trade media, and the role that they have.

Forgive what may appear a self-indulgent topic, but I recently found myself wondering how the industry views the trade media and what role it believes we have.

Is it to entertain and inform? To protect the industry and promote it? To criticise and analyse? It’s a conversation, or argument more accurately, I’ve had several times over the years.

Following the attack at the Ariana Grande concert in the UK, I was drawn to an editorial in the digital pages of one of the industry websites which said it would no longer report terrorist atrocities.

Such reporting is “not really helping the travel cause”, it explained, adding there are more than enough national and international media outlets providing blanket coverage of such tragic events.

Furthermore, it did not want to “unwittingly help spread fear and particularly people’s propensity to travel because of it”.

As you might expect, it was an approach welcomed by the industry.

I partly agree. I don’t believe the role of the travel trade media should extend to reporting directly about terrorist attacks. Not because it’s unhelpful for the travel industry, but simply because regurgitating details and lifting eye witness accounts that we’ve already read in mainstream media is worthless. Fundamentally, terrorist attacks are not travel trade stories. Either add something of pertinence to the travel sector, or don’t bother at all.

Yet such events clearly impact the industry. They can and do have short, mid and long term implications for the sector and cannot simply be ignored on the basis the subject matter is too negative, confronting or painful. “Nothing to see here” does not cut it.

Which is why reflection, analysis and commentary is very much the media’s role on this and any other issue, however unpalatable it may be. If that analysis presents a sobering, less-than-optimistic outlook for travel, well, so be it. It is not the media’s job to blindly talk up the industry in the face of unfolding challenges.

As it happens, the public have so far demonstrated admirable resolve and resilience, and that should be reported. But let’s not ignore or sugar coat issues just because the alternative is inconvenient.

Not everything in the garden is rosy, and it should not be presented as such. Least of all by the media.

I suspect most people understand that. Yet there has always been a school of thought — hence my arguments down the years – that trade journalists should be an extension of the industry’s PR machine; talking up the positives, promoting destinations, spruiking company growth, showcasing brochures.

Of course all those stories play an important part in the mix. There is a wealth of helpful, informative and engaging content — not least in this publication — and championing the success of companies and individuals at the NTIA awards for example, is part of our role.

But self-censorship, or the suppression of news or issues because it’s somehow awkward for the sector or individual companies, is not the way to go.

The trade media should explore the good and the bad, not be its blinkered cheerleader.

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