Steve Newman is a travel journalist and photographer specialising in eco-adventure cruise writing. He has been a travel journalist for over 25 years and has experienced and written about some of the globe’s most fascinating destinations.
Steve believes that travel writing has changed enormously. “In the old days I would never have collected all the menus and brought them back. Now it’s essential as I can get asked to state an example of a meal and the wine that was served with it. I think this exemplifies how the public have become far more sophisticated and demanding in their travel choices, particularly the grey market. The destination list open to the public has also exploded, who would have thought that firms such as Hurtigruten would offer hiking and walking amongst penguins in Antarctica and Star Clippers sailing the largest fully rigged ship in the world through the Panama Canal both in 5 star luxury.”
Steve supplies his own photographs and believes this gives him an edge when writing about a destination. “The internet is awash with images of places with picture editors and designers spoilt for choice but if you can get something really unusual that’s mentioned in the piece then that can really help you to. The world is shrinking and the use of the internet by the public I believe has without doubt had an effect on travel journalism, they have become more savvy about the environment, global warming etc and many people now think about this before booking a holiday.”
With social media now playing an integral part in journalistic awareness, Steve believes that without a doubt it is the most important change in a travel writer’s life. “I still meet freelances like myself who don’t have a website. I can’t understand this as it is so important. So many editors and PRs are now on Twitter, Linked in and Facebook it’s essential to join in with conversations and get noticed. In many ways social media is the new business card, it’s just the event you go to has millions of people attending so you have a huge never ending possibility of introductions instead of the thirty business cards I have in my jacket pocket when I go to functions. Certainly with Linkedin you can join groups and advertise that you are going away on trips and hopefully pick up work there.”
As a freelance journalist, Steve’s working relationship with PRs is a positive one. “I like to think my relationship with PRs is very good (they may tell you different!) as they provide me a with a large percentage of my bread and butter. I was once on a press trip when I was going through a really rough patch in my personal life and I was quite rude to the PR and I immediately apologised. What does amaze me is there are some press trips I have been on when a journalist present hasn’t even offered to buy the PR a drink!”
Steve doesn’t accept a commission from PRs if he doesn’t have a commission at the end for a feature. “It’s a waste of my time and theirs and I think it’s wrong to go and visit somewhere free of charge if you can’t repay them. It may take a year for the piece to be published but in the meantime I can often find other publications that will take a variant on it. So therefore I have to be careful with a commission offer. To be honest I’m very lucky as if I’m not pitching to a publication myself a lot of my work comes from PRs who have already contacted an editor and say they have a trip going to so and so and they would like me to write it. The editor may well take it or say they want someone else to do it as my style is not right for that publication.”
Steve thinks that disclosure does not differ at all across media types. “I always say that I will write a warts and all pieces and I try do so. However one is limited by space and sub editing at the publication. I actually think this is totally right as the sub editor only has a limited amount of wordage and knows their readership better than me. Quite often a mild criticism can be replaced by a piece of information that is far more beneficial to the reader that I hadn’t included.”
About Steve Newman:
“I started out as a primary school teacher and did that for 14 years. I have always had an urge to travel and take photographs so I decided to chuck it all in at the age of 32 to pursue this.
I got an Asscociateship with the BIPP for my work and was asked to write a piece about it for their magazine. This started me writing about photography (I still do) which in turn led me into the outdoor and country magazines which got me press trips to places such as Jordan, Hong Kong, the Dolomites and Iceland. From these trips and when on holiday I started taking shots and submitting them with words to travel magazines and gradually started getting more press trips.
I got into adventure cruising totally by accident when I came across a copy of World of Cruising magazine (www.worldofcruising.co.uk) who I still write for and operate their blog (http://timespentatsea.blogspot.com) and asked if they would like to see a piece on the Balearic Islands. Since then I have managed to get to the Antarctic, Arctic, Portugal, India, The Caribbean and many other places both hot and cold and I’m off to Japan in a few weeks time.
Making a living as a freelance travel writer is not easy and thinking outside the box is essential these days but the British magazine market is vast. I specialise in adventure/eco cruising and travel but wherever I go I always try and target non competitive magazines for a feature be it bird watching, wildlife, history, cultural, consumer or trade or the travel sections of national newspapers.”