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The Write Stuff no - it's not a hairpiece, just a bad haircut                                                     back to TTN home page
by Joe Harkins - Jun 16, '99

    It may have been Machiavelli who advised, "Bring enemies in close. That's the best position from which to keep an eye on them." This week's Travel The Net column is going to test that theory by focusing on the web sites of other travel columnists.

    A narrow view might suggest writers are competitors, not enemies, although in the world of freelancers, it comes down to the same thing. Today we're going to look at Internet-based columnists who seem to exist largely to make life tough for JoeTravel by consistently putting awfully good stuff directly beneath your blinking cursor.

    The richest resource is, as in "ticked off." While too much curmudgeon stew would clog up your hard disk faster than a plate of undercooked dumplings, that site serves up an all-food-groups feast of outraged and occasionally outrageous weekly travel columns.

    On the menu, security expert Terry Riley's cryptically named column Err Travel tells you " . . . what the tourism industry doesn't want you to know." Likewise, N.G. Livingston, writing as IncogniTraveler, delivers updates of the now grounded "air passenger's rights law." Cheap Charlie Leocha's weekly column of bargain tips squeezes a travel penny so hard that Lincoln's profile appears on the back of the coin.

    Joe Brancatelli, whose Brancatelli File is the premiere feature on BizTravel, also is's Joe Sent Me columnist. His sound and practical advice is delivered in a calm and lucid editorial voice. Occidental Tourist and Kirby's Korner are soloists whose sharp observations make flat out sense. is the inspiration of Chris Elliott. On his personal site you'll discover he's a one-man digital band, banging out commentary under various titles. Over at ABC News online, he's the Crabby Traveler. At, he's a Complete Traveler.

    Freelance travel writing isn't just a boy's clubhouse with a "no girl's allowed" policy. However, the reverse appears to be true at JourneyWoman. The home page boldly announces, "Finally, an online resource just for women."

    Last year I praised that site in a Travel The Net column entitled "What Do Women Want?" I said then, "Despite hours of intensive online research I didn't find one Internet resource solely created for traveling women that even comes close to matching JourneyWoman either in completeness or quality."

    While I don't regret a word, I am uncomfortable with what appears to be a de facto policy of avoiding male writers. When I asked JourneyWoman's editor about this, her response was, " . . . it's just hard to write from a women's P.O.V. when you're a man." If gender is a valid and relevant criterion for selecting contributors, would it follow that publications only hire writers from races, religions, national origins, political parties and shades of lipstick that reflect the point of view of their target readership?

    Seriously, I'd be more comfortable if would recruit a few female travel writers and JourneyWoman would recognize that a man is quite capable of understanding and writing about women's travel issues. There's no shortage of insight from either persuasion.

    The ungainly look (well, actually it's just plain ugly and clunky) of Travel Watch is redeemed by the quality of the writing from its twenty or so professionals. Greatest Escapes is under the editorial direction of Victoria Brooks. Visit the Archives from a link at the bottom of the home page for a collection of consistently good travel essays by her and regular contributors. Oregon-based Paul Gerald offers a biweekly column whose range of destinations suggest he's never home.

    Finally, as for Machiavelli's princely advice, Satchel Paige, one of the greatest athletes of the century, warned, "Don't look over your shoulder. Someone may be gaining on you." After visiting the sites of those excellent travel columnists I'm hearing little footsteps. Some of them are not behind me but ahead . . . and moving away.



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