Globe public editor: Why sometimes it’s okay for a travel writer to take a free trip
The experience of attending a movie prescreening, for example, is quite different from being a guest on a cruise for example, writes the Globe’s public editor.
By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail
A reader from Stratford, Ont., asked this question about travel articles: “Increasingly travel articles in The Globe contain the disclaimer that the writer was a guest of the featured hotel or service, but that the article was not reviewed or approved by the said hotel or service. … Why is this acceptable for travel articles, and apparently car reviewers, when it would be clearly a violation of journalistic integrity if it was done, for example, in the political realm, or for theatre reviews. How would we feel to read, ‘The reviewer of the play was the guest of the Stratford Festival Theatre, but the article was not reviewed or approved by Antoni Cimolino [artistic director of the Stratford Festival]?’ ”
It’s an excellent question. The reader is correct in noting that there are more travel articles that are funded at least in part by a travel group or hotel. Movie and theatre reviews are treated differently.
For the question of journalistic integrity, The Globe and Mail’s Editorial Code of Conduct says: “The guiding principle is that editorial staff members may accept no benefit of more than nominal value offered to them because they work for the newspaper or globeandmail.com.”
It also says: “Free admission to sports and entertainment events or access to professional services may be accepted for review purposes.”
Finally, the code deals specifically with such cases as travel stories: “Accepting press or media rates for travel is acceptable for certain features, with the approval of a senior editor. In the interests of transparency, any story written by staff members or freelancers that is based on free or discounted travel arrangements must include a disclosure to the reader as to the discounted or free services.”
It is usual practice for movie and theatre reviewers to attend screenings before a movie or play opens and the screenings and tickets are provided to the media. There is no disclosure mentioned on these reviews.
Should there be? In my view, the experience of attending a movie prescreening, for example, is quite different from being a guest on a cruise for example.
To continue reading this column, please go theglobeandmail.com where this was originally published.