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Journalism Guest Speaker Review // So You Want to Be a Travel Journalist

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Written by
Helen Carney
Published date
06 November 2014

In the third of a series of Journalism Guest Lectures, LCC welcomed Peter Grunert, editor of the world’s best-selling travel magazine Lonely Planet Traveller. Second-year BA (Hons) Journalism student Max Gayler reports.

Lonely Planet Traveller is in its sixth year after Peter ended up convincing Lonely Planet’s owner to start it up and make him editor. After only a year the magazine spread to India and Argentina and now has publications in 12 different countries.

It would be easy to assume that the magazine would work off the back of the success of hugely successful television shows such as ‘Six Degrees’ or ‘Globe Trekker’, but Peter displayed exactly why the magazine deserves its own credit.

The lecture featured Peter’s favourite piece that the magazine has ever published: the ‘Across the Planet’ project carried out by staff writers Oliver Smith and Christa Larwood.

“We sent two writers across the world from London to Sydney, following in the footsteps of Tony and Maureen Wheeler who were the founders of Lonely Planet 41 years ago,” Peter explained.

This impressive piece of journalism broadcast contrasts in culture from learning to yodel in Germany to the Mudmen of Papua New Guinea.

Oliver Smith, one of the writers of the project, had originally gained his staff writing job after completing work experience at the magazine. During this time he pitched a feature retracing the steps of Lawrence of Arabia, which was so successful that he was named the UK’s Young Travel Writer of the Year.

“We’d never normally give this kind of budget to anybody who wasn’t an experienced writer but we just loved this idea so much we had to do it,” Peter told us.

Peter also highlighted the importance of photography in travel journalism, stating: “Photography is the thing we think draws people in the most… It’s probably the thing people connect with most easily”.

For this reason all photography for the magazine is freelance in order to open up the possibility of a plethora of different landscapes, experiences and people. “We look for photography to fuel people’s dreams,” added Peter.

On the subject of how each country’s edition decides on its content, Peter explained: “All our editions tend to welcome a real diversity of experiences and locations… If their readers tend to be people who live in big cities we encourage them to explore their massive and very diverse countries”.

As well as travelling the world and working his way through his bucket list, Peter has also had the opportunity to interview his idol David Attenborough.

Peter went into detail on his conversation with the country’s most-loved wildlife expert, retelling the story of the time David Attenborough woke up to find an amorous male giant tortoise getting a little too close to his igloo tent on the Galapagos Islands.

What does the future hold for LPT? Peter told us that video is the next step for the magazine, telling of a video he made last February where he went to a rhino conservation centre in Kenya and had to look after a blind, adolescent rhino named Alfie.

“It was a brilliant experience and video is something we can create on all our trips. We’re in the midst of moving our magazine’s videos onto our YouTube channel.”

LPT offers great opportunities for young journalists with constant internships rolling in and out of the office the whole year round, as well as providing chances for greater things, with Oliver Smith a perfect example.

The overall impression given by the magazine’s editor is that travel journalism is, if you’re lucky enough to break into it, one of the most satisfying and rewarding jobs in the world.

It’s obvious that even now, Peter is incredibly appreciative of the opportunities he’s been given and more than happy to help someone get on the same track as him.

Words by Max Gayler

View the programme of Journalism Guest Speaker events

Read about BA (Hons) Journalism