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> Lonely Planet Colombia writer never set foot in the country..., The ethics of travel writing
starlagurl
post Apr 14 2008, 03:15 PM
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Wow, talk about some travel controversy. The Lost Weekend is reporting that author Thomas Kohnstamn had written the Colombia guidebook without even going to Colombia. He justifies it by insisting that Lonely Planet wasn't paying him enough to write the thing.

Is that the best you can come up with? I personally, spent a few years being a freelancer, not as a travel writer, but still. I was also paid a pittance, but I never faked my writing and editing! It never even crossed my mind! Travel writing is something you do for the love of travel, not for the virtually non-existent paycheck.

In this case, I am more disappointed in the starving writer than in the big corporation signing his cheque. If you want to be a travel writer, you should be a travel writer, and worry about the money later. Not only does constantly worrying about money corrupt your travel writing biases, it also doesn't get you into an occupation that you will enjoy.

What do you think?


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Paul
post Apr 15 2008, 01:01 AM
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Ha ha - I am not surprised.

Yeah, the writer did the wrong thing - big time.

But I much prefer blaming big corporations for things. LP are huge. They are excessively rich. It is their responsibility to pay their staff properly and the locals proper wages. It is their responsibility to ensure their writers do a good job. They need to check up on things before they put a book on a shelf.
Are they going to offer refunds to the buyers? No. Big corporations get all the profit but seem to take no responsibility for things.

Anyway - lesson is - don't buy LP guidebooks. You don't need them. You probably know just as much as the writer anyway. Just go and make your own way.



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rbisset
post Apr 15 2008, 03:15 AM
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To be honest a lot has been made of the fact he wrote about the Colombia guide without ever setting foot in the country but he wasn't supposed to be doing the on the ground research. The only section he did on that guide was intro and history and that can be done from anywhere.

I like his quote about having sex with a waitress on a table and putting "table service is friendly" in the book review!!


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Paul
post Apr 15 2008, 05:46 AM
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Oh, if he just wrote the history and intro he has hardly done anything wrong. Why LP hired someone who has never been to the country to do that??? But as Rich stated, he doesn't have to go the country to write that stuff once hired.

The sex on the table bit - not sure why he mentioned that or what relevance it has - sounds like he may like a bit of media attention.

I still suspect it reflects badly on LP that they hired this guy.
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starlagurl
post Apr 15 2008, 08:38 AM
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QUOTE(rbisset @ Apr 15 2008, 04:15 AM) *

To be honest a lot has been made of the fact he wrote about the Colombia guide without ever setting foot in the country but he wasn't supposed to be doing the on the ground research. The only section he did on that guide was intro and history and that can be done from anywhere.

I like his quote about having sex with a waitress on a table and putting "table service is friendly" in the book review!!


Where are you getting this information from? I only saw a small blog post on a relatively small blog yesterday. I'd like to read more.


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starlagurl
post Apr 15 2008, 08:41 AM
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QUOTE(Paul @ Apr 15 2008, 02:01 AM) *

Ha ha - I am not surprised.

Yeah, the writer did the wrong thing - big time.

But I much prefer blaming big corporations for things. LP are huge. They are excessively rich. It is their responsibility to pay their staff properly and the locals proper wages. It is their responsibility to ensure their writers do a good job. They need to check up on things before they put a book on a shelf.
Are they going to offer refunds to the buyers? No. Big corporations get all the profit but seem to take no responsibility for things.

Anyway - lesson is - don't buy LP guidebooks. You don't need them. You probably know just as much as the writer anyway. Just go and make your own way.


Of course it's always easier to blame the big corporation for things, but these corporations are full of individuals, who are also crappy. The whole situation is just crappy, people are crappy in general, when they don't pay each other a fair wage, and also, when they don't do the work they say they're going to do. The whole thing is full of poo.

But, still, the writer agreed to a sum of money and said he would do a certain amount of work. If he's not happy with the amount of money he got, he should go somewhere else. It's not like they told them they would give him more money and then went back on their contract...


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starlagurl
post Apr 15 2008, 08:44 AM
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Ohhhhhhhh, I found it...hmm... I wonder if this is just Lonely Planet backpedalling though...I'd like to see an actual copy of the book, because it's not like they put exactly which writer wrote each section of the book in these books, do they?

http://www.gogirlfriend.com/travel-news/th...ustworthy-10080


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rbisset
post Apr 15 2008, 09:21 AM
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I saw it on the Thorn Tree somewhere. Loads of posts about it. They normally show the authors in the book and say which sections they helped with.


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wakingdream
post Apr 15 2008, 10:33 AM
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Hmm, so not surprising. Alot of writing is regurgitation. Alot. Mix it up, put it in your own words and spew it back out. Almost anyone can freelance now with the web. It's not hard. Writing isn't the same as it used to be and we can't expect it to be with so many new avenues to express yourself through. You once had to be a qualified and talented writer to get a gig......

Facts are facts if you're writing history. You can't really rewrite it. Sure you can add your spin to make it somewhat unique....but that's all it is, spin. If it wasn't a prerequisite that he actually be in the country writing, people shouldn't be upset with the writer but with LP. Can you really blame someone for needing the cash and taking the money? We, as people, have to pick and choose what we read and deem 'quality' ourselves because there are tens of millions of 'writers' out there just like that dude, regurgitating. Seriously, do you believe everything you read because it's in a guidebook anyway? Hope not.

Does anyone truly have a clue of what guidebook writers actually earn? Yeah, I know, cry them a river, but most guidebook writers are now extremely young and very underpaid. I'm having deja vu. This is in another thread somewhere.....


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veromarcos
post Apr 15 2008, 06:46 PM
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Having read quite a few chapters of LP for South America this does NOT come as a surprise. They are quite poor most of the time.

Even the South American Handbook (which is way above the LP style) has some very, very poor entries and they are obviously just receiving e-mails from people and sticking comments in.

That reminds me of a restaurant they recommended in Trelew (Argentina) where it stated that the Italian food was great for low prices. Good until then, but suddenly they added "very interesting artwork on the walls".

No exagerration the only artwork was the tomatoe sauce on the walls and a picture of a ballet dancer!

I agree with some conclusions above: guidebooks are for short reference, hotel names, etc - but most of the time the information in it can be easily improved.

All in all, the South American Handbook has proved much better most of the time. LP has been better for a couple of places (when we compared with other travellers).

With regards to the Colombian story. LP should send their excuses to world travellers, send a check and the CEO should walk around Cali with his name on it and no bodyguards.
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starlagurl
post Apr 16 2008, 08:31 AM
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QUOTE(veromarcos @ Apr 15 2008, 07:46 PM) *

That reminds me of a restaurant they recommended in Trelew (Argentina) where it stated that the Italian food was great for low prices. Good until then, but suddenly they added "very interesting artwork on the walls".

No exagerration the only artwork was the tomatoe sauce on the walls and a picture of a ballet dancer!


Haha! Yeah, more often than not, you can find better food/ambiance at random places, than you can out of a guidebook.


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