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Direct from email exchanges among Matador crew, here is a transparent way of dealing with press trips.

Who do you talk to on press trips? Photo: Sergio

MOST press trips are inherently tweaked.

For example, check out the following sentences in a press trip alert I received this morning:

“. . . there is some scope for sponsored participation in our expeditions in conjunction with corporate sponsors, usually if a commission in a well-known medium has been obtained and the sponsor can be given exposure. In that case the airfare, all meals, activities, lodging, and in country transportation are likely to be included. “

I interpret that as meaning “if your shit is big-time enough to adequately pimp us / our sponsors, we’ll pay for you to come.”

Which is the essence of most press trips.

And that’s fine. Any worrying about, romanticizing, or deluding yourself in any way about press trips is a total waste of time. The reality is that they can be positive or negative experiences, depending mostly on your ability to maintain your focus and find a good story.

With that in mind, I wanted to publish an email exchange from last week. This was from an editor in the middle of a press trip, and was answered by Matador CEO Ross Borden. More than anything, it shows the focus necessary when dealing with hosts and “handlers,” especially when you know you have a potentially good story:

turkey project was WEIRD today. an entire day of corporate sales shit and nada on the eco-angle – just men in suits sporting sinister black moustaches and loose-toothed smiles. if you don’t mind i’d like to sack all that crap and interview ken yeong, the malaysian eco-architect don whose vision this is, and whose words would surely be more suited to CHANGE than those of the investment people.

And the response:

dude, TAKE CONTROL from your host. In my experience, a good press trip usually involves strong arming your handler into allowing you to do what you actually want to do / write about / photograph. even if the person is afraid of losing their job over it, calmly explain that you’re going to scrap the rest of ‘today’s itinerary’, and wander around the city / markets snapping sick photos for a photo essay for, and while you’re doing that, they should set up an interview with homeboy.

seriously, drop the hammer and don’t take no for an answer.

Community Connection

Most of us at Matador have been on multiple press trips. We teach how to apply for them at the U. And over the past couple years we’ve published various articles about them, everything from tips on how to “survive” your first press trip, to the way that certain publications’ policies regarding press trips tends to undermine honesty and transparency in journalism.

What experience have you had with press trips? How have you dealt with overbearing hosts?

Please share your comments with us below.


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About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

  • David Page

    Nice one, DM! I was loving that same press trip alert. Classic. The other side of it, of course, is that “if your shit is big-time enough” to get something published in a rag with a circulation of 100,000+ (which is what those folks are looking for), ain’t no such rag gonna take the slops if it got paid for by the hosts… for example I recently got a call for pitches on a short FOB thing from a mag with circulation closer to a mil and the editor wrote “we don’t have the budget to send people to faraway places for a one-page feature [my note: "$750 for 400 to 500 words"]. It could be a place you’ve already written about for another magazine (as long as your stay wasn’t comped), or a place you’ve visited on your own dime, for fun.” How’s that for tweaked?


  • Julie

    Yep, all press trips and media tours are tweaked. Of course they are. The task for the writer is to find the back story, the under story, the overlooked story. I don’t think that means you have to drop the hammer on the host necessarily (It’s important to remember that there are other people on the trip, too). What it means is that you’ve always got to have your bullshit filter amped and you’ve got to be able to know how to ask thoughtful questions that pull back the veil. Sometimes the best story from a press trip is about pulling back that veil– like the one I wrote about the “dark” side of Carnaval. There are lots of ways to use a press trip to your advantage, but I’m not sure issuing any type of ultimatum to the host is the most effective.

    • David Miller

      i feel like this is on point julie:

      What it means is that you’ve always got to have your bullshit filter amped and you’ve got to be able to know how to ask thoughtful questions that pull back the veil. Sometimes the best story from a press trip is about pulling back that veil– like the one I wrote about the “dark” side of Carnaval.

      i remember that piece, and you’re right, it didn’t require you ‘strong arming your handler.’

      just full transparency here: i feel like a small part of my motivation for this piece, maybe like 9%, was just to have the phrase ‘strong arming your handler’, and (to a slightly lesser degree), ‘dropping the hammer’ published at the notebook.

  • David Miller

    another full disclosure note here: somehow in the massive email thread that went off on multiple tangents, i missed the editor’s response.

    here it is:

    ross, i hear ya but sadly it wasn’t that kinda scenario. most of the other journalists here were actually interested in the business side (they all write property sections in the UK broadsheets), so i had to bite my tongue. anyhoo i’ve already started the interview process with yeong tho, so no sweat. and i pre-arranged an extra day here for photos too.

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