Frommer Says Travel Bloggers Are Industry Shills

While doing research for another post, I came across an article called “Are travel writers shills for the cruise lines?” – an article published on just a few days ago. As a blogger covering cruise news I decided to check it out and found a gross mischaracterization from some unlikely places.

The author of the article, Dennis Schaal, does a pretty good job of staying neutral and not taking sides, though does take bulk of his article from a maritime attorney Jim Walker’s blog who specializes in lawsuits against cruise lines.

Walker contends that no blogger covered the recent passing of the Cruise Line Safety Act just before the 4th of July weekend, and that there are far too many “shills for the cruise industry” in the travel blogosphere.

PaulineFrommerBoth Walker and Schaal mention Pauline Frommer (daughter of Arthur Frommer, travel-guide-book-king) in their articles as one of the only exceptions to the rule – her father being the other. Walker went so far to say that it is “refreshing” to see a travel writer with “integrity and ethics,” after Frommer covered the passing of the law.

This understandably set off a wave of comments from both sides – and Pauline Frommer even weighed in on the discussion saying that it is a “valid point” that both made in their articles. In prose dripping with arrogance, she talked about what a “real travel journalist” does and how “novice writers” may not get the full picture.

“As a member of the “old guard” I’d say that an issue like this one shows that there’s still a place for edited pieces, written by paid writers who don’t have to worry about angering the company they’re writing about,” Frommer commented.

Surprising to me was that Frommer, a self-proclaimed “real journalist” wouldn’t have known the difference between the House of Representatives and the Senate – the latter of whom passed the law a week or so ago, though Frommer praised the former (which is almost as hard to type as it is to say) in her article which received much acclaim.

The House of Representatives did indeed pass this law – but it was last October.

I wrote about it. Here.

It may seem like I’m splitting hairs over journalism 101 fact-checking with Ms. Frommer, and I am – but saying “real journalism” only comes from expensive office buildings with a full staff to manage advertising with the very same companies that travel blogging sites do (and thus are biased) is offensive.

Bloggers are legally held to a higher standard – bound by the FTC to disclose gifts, travel, etc along with their coverage – something newspapers, TV Shows, and Guide Books are not bound to do.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m not afraid to cover stories that cruise lines wish I didn’t (e.g. commentary on Carnival Elation’s murder cabin) – but I also cover things they do right (e.g. their new round-trip sailings from LA to Hawaii).

I hope that Walker, Schaal, and Ms. Frommer all understand that if a story only gets coverage from a select few, it’s probably not all that interesting. There are enough travel sites that competition for readers outweighs ruffling a few feathers in the industry – especially when none of the cruise lines responsible for many press trips and perks are even named in this particular story.

The story wasn’t widespread because travel editors and bloggers didn’t think it made the cut – not because they care more about cruise line relationships than passenger safety as these three would like you to believe.