Chicago Tribune Travel Editor Ross Werland on Pitching Travel Stories to Newspapers
The editorial staff at large newspapers is shrinking (and has been for years).
What does this mean for you as a travel writer?
Scroll down for advice on getting started from travel editor Ross Werland at the Chicago Tribune. (He’ll be sharing more insights in person at our workshop coming up next month.)
The newspaper industry may be shrinking, but – as Ross says – he’s still looking for unique stories that are well written and include opinions and judgments about a place.
CHRISTINA: Hi Ross. Many of our readers and the folks who attend our workshops are just getting started as travel writers. Some have published pieces in other fields. But many are coming to travel writing from completely different careers. What would you say is the most important thing somebody starting out can do to improve their odds of getting published?
ROSS WERLAND: Do NOT make factual errors. Triple-check everything. When you make a mistake that causes embarrassment to the editor and publication, that may be the last time your work appears there.
CHRISTINA: Think about the writer you most like to work with… what makes him or her so special?
ROSS WERLAND: They know how to tell a story entertainingly, succinctly and accurately. Plus they toss in good details along with personality: judgments on where to eat, sleep, play. Above all, I don’t have to tell them how to tell a story. And just to be clear, personality doesn’t mean it’s all about you. Your goal is to help the reader have a great time or, at the least, a great read.
CHRISTINA: If you had to name one thing you wish more freelancers understood, what would it be?
ROSS WERLAND: Editors are looking for fresh approaches to stories that may have been told a thousand times. This isn’t about you or the editor, it’s about good information well presented. Also, editors are constantly under pressure with more and more demands on their time. (I had to quit answering my phone.) Don’t take it personally if you don’t get an immediate email response. I get about 300 a day. I simply don’t have time to even see them all.
CHRISTINA: Can you tell me about one of the best travel articles you remember? What makes it stand out in your mind?
ROSS WERLAND: I’ve seen many, but more than anything, here is what distinguishes a good travel story nowadays. Almost every publication is being pressured to cut space, and websites simply don’t want to try readers’ attention spans. Thus, either way, a story must include an engaging, informative and concise narrative, accompanied by a nutrient-rich “go” box, which includes details such as addresses, phone numbers and websites.
CHRISTINA: Thanks Ross. See you in Chicago!
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]