I’m soaking up a luxurious junket

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I am mobile this week, writing this column from a location other than Bulletin Headquarters.
Yes, I am typing away at a nice resort with a fabulous pool and great service. The air conditioner is too good, which makes the room freezing cold, but other than that, it’s perfect.
A complimentary VIP gift was brought to our room, including a bottle of wine, which was put to good use.
I am on a junket. That’s when I get the stay comped because whoever is paying for it wants some coverage for an event. I go on these every now and then, and they are always fun.
Some staunch news hounds may now say that this is selling out.
I have to tell you that all this has crossed my mind, and I made it a rule never to accept one of these when the expectation is for a straight news or political story. Since we don’t do much of that, there is no conflict there.
But when we’re talking about a feature-type event, like a movie opening or some holiday attraction, I don’t see anything wrong with it.
A long time ago, I accepted a hotel package from the producers of an independent movie and had a great time. Then I panned the movie because it was junk. However, the article about the actors I interviewed was a good read. I could not lie to my readers about the movie.
So, for those who are still staunch believers that newspapering should never get involved in a freebie, let me bring up some examples that are worse.
Political lobbyists frequently pay off our politicians with expensive junkets, gifts and private rides on company jets to try to buy their vote. That has an effect on what laws are passed in Congress. My little weekend escape on somebody else’s dime is not in this category.
I am enjoying the getaway without any guilty feelings and am writing about it honestly. I thought it would be interesting to give you, dear readers, an insight on how this business really works.
On a previous trip, the organizers flew in journalists from all over the country. I drove because it was close by. We all had a great time for three days. Everything was covered – hotel, food and entertainment. That one involved providing coverage for a vacation spot. Many of the freelancers we met already had their articles sold.
Not every news organization has deep pockets to be able to send writers to cover stories in far-away places. I also met up with several writers at these events who work for small papers, which are not financially able to afford such trips.
So, your news, or at least feature stories, sometimes are produced by writers whose expenses are paid for by the organization that wants to shine a light on what they are doing.
A good friend of mine was a sports writer for a small paper. He was wined and dined by the team he covered. Those guys get to live the good life a lot more than me. When the team stinks, they still write that it stinks. It’s a balancing act.
I have to wrap it up because I want to use the workout room before I eat lunch while watching a presentation about a new feature attraction at this place.
Next week we’ll be back at Bulletin Headquarters banging out another column. But for now, it’s time to play. This is a hard job, but someone has to do it.