It seems the more travel stories I publish, the more offers I receive for a freebie or a discount. When you tell people you write travel articles, they often reply: "Gee, all the free travel must be swell!" Not true. Newspapers have strict ethical rules that prohibit accepting freebies -- whether you write for the business section or the travel section.
Earlier this year, I discovered that even a semblance of a conflict creates a conflict. I participated in an airline promotion last year that was open to the general public. Even though I traded my hair and a good bit of dignity (having my head shaved) for a free plane ticket, because I advertised an airline on my skull for a couple of weeks represented a conflict of interest -- so no newspaper wanted any stories derived from that trip.
The LA Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Boston Globe and almost every major newspaper in the country prohibit both staff writers and freelancers from accepting freebies or discounts not available to the general public. The good news is this means you can rely on a newspaper's travel section to accurately and objectively report about travel with you, the consumer, in mind. If I write about a destination, suggesting you invest in a trip, you are placing your trust in me. Unlike Bernie Madoff, I consider your trust sacred. So does your newspaper's travel section and its editors.
Personally, I like holding a newspaper to read the news. The tactile experience of turning a page rather than scrolling down a screen is easier on my eyes and better holds my attention.
Even if you only get your news online, consider occasionally investing in the Sunday paper. You'll be making an investment in good journalism and are likely to receive some coupons to cut out.
Since newspapers don't necessarily advertise their ethics, despite being forced to advertise just about everything else, I thought you'd like to know.