Ever found yourself getting annoyed at massive omissions in a ‘best of’ list or wondered where they hell the writer has got their info from?
Well, here’s a chance to go behind the scenes of a feature and see the writer’s process (well, mine,) as well as gain access to the original pool of journalistic research.
The idea is that you can select your own ‘top tens’ rather than put up with mine – in effect you can rewrite the published end result if you so desire. You can also use the info as further reading for more ideas, it’s not in a writerly style but some people will like that.
Or, more adventurously, if you’re a fellow travel writer/blogger, feel free to mine the data to put together a whole new travel feature altogether – just let me know what you create and I’ll link to it here on the blog.
The problem with ‘top ten’ lists…
Not only are ‘top tens ‘and ‘best ofs’ subjective (unless charted by stats), but how do you measure romance? Answers on a postcard…
Because of my general tomboyish lack of romance, I started to feel the pain of writing something I knew little about. To be honest, writer’s dread set in. As my friend Christine says, ‘No writer likes writing, but they all love having written.’
So I decided to experiment – as is the will of the Tourist Vs Traveller blog – and crowd-source the answers using interactive tools and applications, but also funnel the suggestions into a one universally accessible place rather than swamping my email inbox and making it unusable.
Cue 98 detailed PR responses in 48 hours, a large number of informal social media suggestions, and a spreadsheet that would take me eight hours to plough through.
But before I unpack all of this travel feature’s baggage, and reveal the tools I used, here’s why I’m doing it and who I think might be interested.
(In future, you’ll be able to skip this bit and get straight to the juicy stuff when the other posts in the series are written but for now, just deal with it…)
Why expose the guts of a story – and who cares anyway?
Number 4 on my list of 10 New Year’s travel resolutions for 2010 is ‘Transparent Journalism’. And this is good because…
• Curiosity – readers, who never see behind the scenes of travel writer’s job, may enjoy seeing how a feature was put together.
• An exposé of journalism – people have come to distrust journalists because of spin/angles/pure lies. I think they would probably appreciate a bit more honesty, so here’s the guts of both features laid bare for anyone to see, review and make their own choices about.
• Transparency and choice – there’s only so much information you can get into a feature but a helluva lot more collated research just going to waste – maybe the reader would like to see the full set of options rather than just the writer’s choice? Kind of like ‘Further reading’.
• Traditional travel writing has a long history of accusations of lying. What happens when you make the writing transparent? I have no idea what response this series of posts will bring – I hope there will be some response! Especially from those who are disillusioned with journalism. The whole point is to tear down the traditional forms, experiment and open up to other ways of creating online travel content. (Here’s an earlier rant on this over on my website.)
• Skills sharing – print and non-techie web journalists can see some of the online tools available to them, and to know the pros and cons of using them. Techie types can also perhaps advise me of more tools I can have a play with.
• Interaction – Crowd-sourced stories create a small community of contributors for that article and break down the barriers between journalist and readers.
• Distribution – Those who contribute to a feature are more likely to follow the story’s trail to the end. They may also distribute it via sharing sites. Distribution is no longer via a newsagent’s shelf but via networks and communities and RSS feeds and the like, so journalists should have a interest in experimenting with crowd-sourcing. The other thing is that stories no longer die on publication but may come back to life again in the comments to form new stories – see the Online Journalism Blog for more this (eg the News Diamond structure for an online article).
If there are any other reasons you can think of for making research transparent, let me know as these are just initial thoughts. I’m wondering also if there may be some risks involved in doing this, and has it been done before?
I’ll be publishing the tools, results and social media stuff in future posts because this has suddenly grown into an epic. So time to wind up.
- Behind the scenes of a travel feature – pt 2: the commission
- Behind the scenes of a travel feature – pt 3: the seven tools of feature research
- Behind the scenes of a travel feature – pt 4: the results of the Google Docs experiment
- Behind the scenes of a travel feature – pt 5: 101 romantic places around the world