Most businesses and media outlets have some sort of pivot strategy in place in the midst of COVID-19. We asked top travel, outdoor and lifestyle writers how the pandemic has changed what they are working on and what type of story ideas they are looking for now. Here are their responses.
Elaine Glusac, 2019 SATW Travel Journalist of the Year, New York Times Frugal Travel Columnist, National Geographic Traveler, Private Clubs Magazine, American Way and more.
I feel like the pandemic is the news event that keeps on giving. I’m busier than ever. It’s not destination pieces, of course, since no one’s traveling, but news-driven stories that cover consumer advocacy (how to book a room in a pandemic, how travel insurance failed us, etc.), potential outcomes (The Future of Travel project), industry innovations (Hygiene Concierges, UV cleaning, whole property rentals), access (destination quarantines, the closing of rafting on some rivers), planning (how to organize a socially distant trip) and impacts (which are everywhere). I think I’m very close to considering destination pieces from a regional perspective (like, what will mountain resorts or beach towns look like this summer). I’m definitely open to pitches. I’m looking at doing something on new hotel openings in 2020 and where people are going to go in 2021.
Larry Olmsted, Forbes.com Senior Contributor, NY Times Bestselling author of Real Food, Fake Food. Larry has been published in leading publications from Investors Business Daily to Playboy to Popular Science, and is currently the Contributing Travel Editor for Cigar Aficionado Magazine and restaurant columnist for USAToday.com.
For me it’s been evolving and a moving target. I’m already really sick of “virtual anything” and I didn’t initially want to focus too much on COVID stuff, or do anything that seems gratuitous, like these recipes I’ve seen places running with exotic ingredients no one has. I wanted to only do stuff that would be actual service, so at first I did a lot of things like food you could order delivered to your door, staying active and fit at home, that kind of thing. Now I’m morphing back to travel but carefully. I don’t want to make things sound better than they are or encourage people to get on planes. So I’ve taken two approaches. First I’m trying to get people to rethink the rest of their lives, their long term travel goals, bucket/dream trips so that when things do go back to normal, we can make sure we don’t leave any “must do” stuff on the table.
Secondly, I am covering the first waves of travel reopening, but only to the degree that I think it is useful and doable, and I think 2020 will be the year of the domestic road trip. So I think camping, glamping, cabins, lake home rentals, National Parks, boats, are all going to be super hot.
Jill Robinson, Author, writer, editor, photographer, 100 Things to Do In San Francisco Before You Die, Outside Magazine, AFAR Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Travel+Leisure, San Francisco Chronicle, Sierra Magazine and more.
At the moment, I'm looking for timely pitches about wildlife, lands and water conservation success stories, and outdoor adventure. I'm also looking for domestic road trip ideas beyond the standard (and why this route). Pandemic related, I'm interested in hearing about how some destinations/businesses have had to pivot to get through (especially if this denotes a trend among more than one place), but more than just "we've had to re-tool our menu to include take-out."
Joe Lindsey, Outside Magazine, Bicycling Magazine, Wired, Red Bulletin, 5280 and more.
My work has definitely changed some. I shifted gears in late March to focus on stories that related in some way to the pandemic, although I kept doing other work as well. A lot of what I’m working on is service journalism. I did a story for Outside last week about the bike boom and whether it is sustainable. The gear articles I’m writing are also loosely themed around the pandemic. It’s not explicitly tied to that, but I’ve written service pieces on bike maintenance, and am working on an e-bike story for Outside and refreshing a “how to buy a bike” piece for Bicycling. All of that is relevant without being overtly “coronavirus” themed.
I think in the first weeks the crisis broke, a lot of media outlets scrambled to produce relevant stories, and there’s still a need for those. But we’re also feeling out what kind of “normal” stories work right now and why.
Readers are still interested in stories about gear and fitness and health and nutrition. If something doesn’t have a pandemic tie-in, don’t force it; that said, “soft” connections can work as long as they’re low-key. What falls flat for me is PR pitches that push the coronavirus angle too much or try to create a link where there’s really not one there, or stuff that seems blissfully ignorant of reality. I think what I’m looking for most right now is the same thing that readers are: genuinely good and interesting stories, and stories that give them something that they can use in their lives.
Sean McCoy, Editor-In-Chief, Gear Junkie
At GearJunkie, we're working on stories that will help new and veteran outdoor recreationists get the most from their money. We realize that with limited recreational opportunities, many people will turn to the outdoors this year, some of them for the first time. We'd like to help show these newcomers the ropes, from fundamentals like Leave No Trace ethics to smart purchasing of quality equipment. Beyond that, we are staying on the pulse of the outdoor industry with timely news and reviews of new products and technology.
Riley Missel, Test Editor, Bicycling Magazine, Runner’s World, Popular Mechanics
For the most part, we are business as usual, especially with Bicycling. We have done a few pandemic-specific features on how we are coping and continuing to ride/run. But since everybody is so bike crazy right now, our regular content is doing really great, especially beginner-friendly tips and low-priced hybrid bikes.
Patricia Kaowthumrong, Assistant Food Editor, 5280 Magazine
Now more than ever, we're focused on covering news about small, independently owned businesses. We love hearing pitches about the challenges local establishments are facing during this unprecedented time, as well as how they are innovating and coming together to support one another and the community.