2021 – Spring

The Beat: Travel Writing (Print/Online Track)

Course Number: JOUR-UA 201, section 4

Day & Time: Thu | 9:30 AM – 1:10 PM

Location: 20 Cooper Square, room 659

Instructor: Seth Kugel

Prerequisites:  Journalistic Inquiry: The Written Word (JOUR-UA 101)

Travel may be on hold right now, but travel writing is still going strong. Journalists are scrambling to cover the fate of the industry and people dependent on it; essayists are rethinking past adventures and longing for new ones; and forward-thinking writers are exploring how to travel without traveling. What comes of this work will impact the industry well beyond the return of non-essential flights and road trips, as wanderlust confronts concerns over overtourism and climate change.

In this course, we’ll be approaching travel from all such angles. Some assignments will vary depending on where students are and how much local circumstances allow them to move around. Those in New York City who are able to leave home will use the diverse neighborhoods of the five boroughs as a proxy for the world; those able to go out in their own regions will choose areas culturally or geographically different from their own town or neighborhood as a destination. And students who are sheltering in place will have perhaps the most real-world task of all: re-inventing how to see, hear, feel and smell a faraway place – and meet “locals” – using a combination of technology and imagination. All students will produce travel content both traditional (service pieces, personal essays, guidebook entries) and digital (blogs, social media posts and YouTube videos).

Not all travel content is journalism (ahem, press trips and fake TripAdvisor reviews), but the best is, and it follows the same ethical guidelines and shoulders the same responsibilities to readers and subjects. Students will read travel writers past and present and explore the ethical considerations of writing about places as destinations for (usually) privileged (mostly) Westerners.

The course is taught by Seth Kugel, the former Frugal Traveler columnist for the New York Times and host of the Amigo Gringo YouTube channel.

Notes: Required for students pursuing the print/online track in the journalism major. Also required for the minor in print and online journalism. Counts as an elective for the minor in broadcast and multimedia journalism.