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I don’t know what to make of this month’s Condé Nast Traveler

Text & Photo:
Julie Schwietert Collazo

The April 2013 issue of Condé Nast Traveler

The April 2013 issue of Condé Nast Traveler.

I don’t know what to make of this month’s Condé Nast Traveler, which is billed as a special issue covering “The Greatest Journey in the World!,” a 12-country, 24-city, 40-hotel, 135-meal tour of Asia.

It’s fascinating, especially from the perspective of a writer; nearly the entire issue was written by one writer, Hanya Yanagihara. (Hard to know whether the assignment was enviable or punishing; I suspect both). This almost never happens; in fact, I can’t think of a single other example of an issue of any magazine being written by one writer.

On the other hand, the issue is totally puzzling. Despite the “Truth in Travel” tagline touted by this magazine, is the issue really just one big ad for GeoEx, the tour operator who packaged and (presumably) sold the trip to Traveler? In my opinion, it seems so, and not just because there’s a generously sized sidebar where readers are given a detailed explanation about how they can book this very trip–or a shorter variation–through GeoEx. The core feature article is written in such a way that it reads like a detailed trip itinerary, the kind you might read in, say, a tour operator’s marketing brochure: “Your driver will meet you today at 10 AM….” An epic trip with almost no real narrative in a magazine that often excels in this form of travel writing (as an example, see this incredible article about Oman, from the January 2013 issue of Condé Nast Traveler), at a length that is mind-boggling… well, I just don’t know what else to say about it.

I’m reading this issue from the perspective of an industry insider, as someone who understands how magazines get put together, as well as what kinds of considerations influence how they get put together– “truth in travel” aside. The average reader won’t be aware of these concerns, but I do wonder whether this kind of approach is interesting and useful to the reader, and I wonder whether the process of putting together this particular issue is quite as transparent as it appears.

Have you read this issue? If so, what are your thoughts?


6 responses »

  1. Haven’t read the issue – but I do agree with you on the writer’s perspective – more like 70% excruciating and 30% woah-yay-thanks.

    • Julie Schwietert Collazo

      Well, I don’t know for sure what their per word rate is, but I’m going to guess it’s over a dollar. Multiply that by the 65,000 words she turned in (though that’s admittedly not the number of words that were published), and I think that the financial gain probably offset the hurt. 🙂

  2. Anonymous, because I contribute to the magazine

    I thought about this too. Lately, however, I’ve started to question whether Condé Nast Traveler really does practice ‘truth in travel’ anymore — I suspect they do to an extent, but prefer to instead spend their money with organisations that advertise with them. I’m finding it harder to take the magazine seriously. This particular article was boring and seemed to focus more on whether a hotel provided a packed lunch or not rather than actually visiting anything in detail. It was a whirlwind trip around Asia that skipped most of the usual tourist destinations in preference for five star hotels and spas.

    • Julie Schwietert Collazo

      Thanks for your comment, especially as an inside insider. I don’t think any of us in the industry is naive about how magazines are put together and to what extent “truth in travel” is aspirational rather than actual. My problem is when a publication continues to insist that it’s transparent when it’s clearly not.

  3. I didn’t see the article, but it sounds like one big long advertorial to me. That would bore me to tears.

  4. Pingback: Developing Honest, Transparent, Ethical Editorial Practices in a Cloudy Age | Cuaderno Inedito

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