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Stories in travel journalism - in any kind of journalism, really - begin as news, then migrate over to commentary, and then eventually become meta-commentary. Sufficiently vicious and prominent meta-commentary gets treated as news, and thus does the circle of life turn.
So for instance, coverage of the recently published report on TSA's behavior profiling program began as news. More specifically, it began as news that the program spectacularly sucks. You'll remember this as the system that sought to supplement pat-downs with "chat-downs" in which screeners would ask you really specific questions and then guess - based on your reactions - if you were doing something suspicious. TSA called it Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques - SPOT - and they spent roughly one billion dollars on it. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office indicated that it works only "slightly better than chance." Opps.
CNN Travel this morning published a piece of breathtakingly shameless link bait, in the form of a survey cataloging the nationalities that American men and women find sexiest. The poll itself comes from Misstravel.com, while the article itself is arguably a followup to CNN's 2011 reporting on a survey cataloging the world's coolest nationalities. Travel journalism ebbs and flows.
If this came out any day of the week that wasn't Friday, obviously we'd feel guilty passing it along. But it's sunny outside, and there are patios filled with tables at establishments that serve drinks. So "sexiest nationalities" it is. It's either that or a post about the new Goop City Guides app. And why end the week on an ugly note, ya know?
Congress's emergency fix to sequestrationthe one we told you about earlier this week, where they let the FAA off the hookis having an interesting effect on travel journalism. Specifically, it's causing journalists to write about travel. Even more specifically, it's causing journalists to write about travel politics. We already have a very firm opinion on what happens when Congress starts to tinker inside the travel industry. But it's always nice to have details.
For instance, a Bloomberg politics blogger was very much not happy about Congress's fix ("erupted in fury," "appalling," "even more self-serving than you probably imagined," etc). So like any good politics blogger, he decided to question the motives of the politicians who voted for it. It turns out that U.S. Senators and Representatives fly a lot, and so there.
The post is a little bit paint-by-numbersCongress gets perks, those perks cost money, be outraged!but it's fine as far as it goes. There's a genre, the blogger met genre expectations, whatever.
Apparently there aren't any cute blond girls who've gone missing overseas lately, so someone at CNN got assigned to write up this tripe:
On a recent Southwest Airlines flight, a man dropped his pants and exposed himself to the female passenger sitting next to him, then punched her, according to an FBI affidavit. The plane was in midair, and the naked man reportedly grew angrier, screaming uncontrollably and shaking his fist in the air... 'Now people are more hyper-vigilant on what occurs on aircrafts,' said Ron Koziol, assistant section chief for the FBI's violent crimes unit, who calls airplanes a 'high-risk' environment.
Did you hear that? He shook his fist! Not only did he shake his fist, but he shook it in the air! If you continue reading this Woodward and Bernstein-like expose, you discover that there are 80 similar incidents every single year. We did some back of the napkin number crunching and concluded that, if you board a plane every morning for the next 365 days, you have a .00001% chance of seeing something that we have to deal with every single night on the way home from the bar.
When I graduated from college back in (gulp) 1992, I packed my bags and moved to Riga, Latvia (pictured) to work at an English-language newspaper called The Baltic Observer. The Observer was an ambitious young paper launched by a handful of Latvian-Americans, Latvian-Canadians, and Latvian-Latvians a year earlier, and I was proud to be a part of it, chasing down stories about politicians, dissidents, and anybody doing anything interesting in the three Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.