Mixed Feelings About a NYT Travel Article


Yesterday I picked up the Sunday Travel section. It was folded in half and a headline on the bottom half had caught my eye. “Rome: A Big Easter Basket: a season from prayer, music and shopping”

I’m in Chicago, so naturally I thought I was picking up the Chicago Tribune, and hadn’t even looked at the top of the newspaper yet as I quickly opened the paper and searched for the Rome article. I was excited because some Greek boys had recently suggested I come to Greece for Easter and do an article on their festivals. Sooooo, I wanted to see how an Easter festival was covered in a newspaper travel section.

When I got to the article, there was no big header, just a “What’s Doing In Rome” line that was imbedded in the first of four pictures on the page. The article was broken into sections: Events, Sightseeing, Where to Stay, Where to Eat, and Where to Shop.

Here was Frank Bruni’s lead:

“In its architecture, seasonal rhythms and aspects of its character, Rome is connected closely to Christianity; key dates on the Christian calendar are peak moments for this blessed city. Easter’s celebrations and events augment the usual attractions.”

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Does that make you want to read more? Not me. Dry and dull are the first words that come to mind. Not engaging. It was then that I saw that I was reading the NYT. I was shocked. This is the granddaddy of all travel sections. Or, isn’t it supposed to be since it’s touted as the best newspaper in the States?

“This article is crap,” I said aloud. Still shocked. My friend, who reads the Sunday NYT regularly, said that he often finds bad articles in their travel section. Again, I was surprised. No, that just couldn’t be. But I don’t read the section regularly, and wouldn’t know.

I re-evaluated my snap judgement. Bruni told us of some Easter events and their dates, but he didn’t suggest how far in advance we’d have to book to get a hotel nearby. Oh he recommended a few hotels all right, but is it a service to their readers to run this article only a few weeks before Easter? Wouldn’t it have been better even a few weeks earlier in case travelers wanted to jet over there and see the glowing crosses for themselves?

Then my tune changed. If the NYT publishes a “What’s Doing in….” section, then maybe this is a good way to get a first byline in the paper. It’s guidebook info. It’s a list of exactly what it projects…. what’s going on in Rome. It’s names, addresses, phone numbers, and websites. It’s info. It is a market lead. And it doesn’t take a mental giant to jot that info down and try sending it in. I’m going to write their section and find out if they accept freelance submissions.

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And one more item to get us on an even more positive note about this Sunday’s section. I liked their essay “All Over the Maps”