Travel writing tips for freelancers

Travel sections in printed newspapers are almost an endangered species. Jill Cassidy, travel editor for the Arizona Republic, runs just one of 15 remaining newspaper travel sections in the United States.

The Sunday travel section is “wildly popular and has a dedicated core of noisy readers,” she told Dan Fellner’s travel writing class at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

Most of the stories are written by freelancers, though the section – and the also popular Explore Arizona section on Saturday – has one full-time reporter.

“The audience is older," Cassidy says. "The bulk of readers are 60 to 85, and they are active, engaged people.”

The section receives about 15 travel questions per week, and Cassidy personally gets about 150 emails a day, she says.

The biggest part of her job is fact-checking the freelance stories that are submitted to her. “I call the phone numbers, check websites and directions, etc. The stories have to be accurate.”

How do freelance travel writers catch her attention? “Write about someplace we haven’t heard about,” she says. “If you go to Paris, for example, write about something new.”

Having good photos is essential, she adds, because “people are attracted to pictures.”

According to Cassidy, her job does have one major occupational hazard. “You want to go everywhere.”