Not saying something negative is still saying something

This comment in a Facebook Group is why I worry about objective coverage from press trips and fam tours:

Travel blogger:

“We had a AWFUL stay at a well-known place. I told the PR person that I could write about it honestly and it wasn’t going to be pretty or not write about it at all – she went for the latter. I heaved a big sigh of relief as I don’t like to publicly trash places.”

Here is what I think about that….

If a place is not good (hotel, restaurant, attraction, whatever) and I look to your blog for honest advice but you don’t tell me about places to avoid and why, then you are doing me a disservice as a reader.

If making PR people happy wins out over honesty with your readers, then that, to me, is a problem.

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9 Responses to Not saying something negative is still saying something

  1. miss donna says:

    ain’t that the truth! bloggers have been led to believe that sharing the not-so-good equals trashing a brand/experience and that’s just not the case. so glad to know i’m not the only one feels this way.
    miss donna´s last [post] ..blogging lessons | an industry divided

  2. Karen Bryan says:

    Sheila, this is one of my big beefs with travel bloggers and journalists. They’d rather write gushingly positive reviews or nothing at all, rather than risk annoying their host and missing out on future press trips.

    I write no-fluff, keep-it-real reviews on Europe a la Carte, which relate the good and the bad:

    Anything else is of no benefit to readers.
    Karen Bryan´s last [post] ..10 Museums in Manchester, England

  3. I’m so glad you are writing about this topic and always remind this industry about ethics. I’m an award-winning journalist (with a background in network television news and investigative journalism) who has run a travel publishing business for the past 10 years. I get sick to my stomach over the way many travel bloggers don’t want to offend PR folks or ever say anything negative. I guess it goes back to the whole idea – are travel bloggers journalists or not or something in between? I could write a book on this subject.

    But a story from my world – I stayed at a world-famous hotel in Rome – I was given a media discount (though I often travel on my own dime). My experience was among the worst I’ve had in 18 years of travel to Italy. You can bet I wrote an entire article on the hotel and included why it was so disappointing and bad. My readers look to me for authentic, Italy travel advice – if one of the classic Rome hotels is awful and I don’t tell them why they should avoid it, I’ve truly let them down. I hold myself and my company to very very high standards and that’s why people pay for my content (which is different from straight travel bloggers). But even if my business model were different, old school journalism is so ingrained in me, I’d do the same.

    I’d venture to guess that most audiences would appreciate an HONEST review and would be more likely to follow a blog that tells it like it is. But many bloggers are so afraid of endangering their comps that they keep things bland by glowing about every place they write about…

  4. Sheila says:

    miss donna,

    Thanks, I think one can give constructive criticism without “trashing” a place.

  5. Sheila says:

    Hi Karen,

    I don’t do an extensive review on every single place I stay or every single thing I do, but when something is “AWFUL” at a well-known place, they either had a bad day or it’s a tourist trap that needs a spotlight shined on it. Thanks for keeping things real!

  6. Sheila says:


    That’s an interesting twist re: your paid content on Dream of Italy. Is there perhaps an unspoken, even unexamined feeling among some bloggers that, “Oh, well, it’s free content, I do it ‘for love’ so readers really shouldn’t have high expectations?”

    I don’t know the answer, and it’s only fair to point out that I very rarely read anything negative in the print travel magazines that I pay for, either.

  7. Perhaps you can get away with the sin of omission if you market your blog accordingly – for example, “I will tell you about the wonderful places that I have visited!”

    I think of Guy Fieri’s TV show, in which he goes around the country and visits restaurants that interest him. Unless I’m missing something, he does not represent himself as an objective reviewer – which explains why he’s never hated any of the places he’s visited. At the same time, one presumes that Fieri has enough credibility that he wouldn’t praise a place that he absolutely despises.

    Regarding a negative review – or a positive review – we need to remember that the things we experience are unique to us, the day we visited, etc. This explains why some five star destinations get the occasional one star review.
    John E. Bredehoft´s last [post] ..The silly season of social media adoption – corporate use of…Snapchat?

  8. Sheila says:

    Hi John,

    You’re right; I’d be surprised if a Guy Fieri show suddenly got all “Kitchen Nightmares” on us. 🙂

  9. Sheila you said, “Oh, well, it’s free content, I do it ‘for love’ so readers really shouldn’t have high expectations?”

    I think you’re on to something. And maybe the topic of “travel” isn’t as serious as health or politics, etc. Maybe that has some effect.

    I do offer a lot of free content, but my main revenue stream is subscriptions and there are no ads in the print newsletters. Perhaps I take it to a higher standard because people are paying.

    I actually think there is a huge service in travel in telling people what and where to avoid. I haven’t run one in awhile but from time to time we do a little column in the newsletter on places that just isn’t worth it. I remember I was highly disappointed in the pasta museum in Rome and sharing that. Would I do a huge article on it – no – but it is worth doing a little blurb.

    There’s definitely a feeling of not wanting to piss off advertisers at big print magazines. Another factor is space but they could do something similar with a little box on places to avoid.

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