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.”




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.

The New York Times Company
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New York, NY 10036

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”