Which section for the story?
I've always worked on a general theory that a reliable sign of a good travel story is that it will easily slot into another section of a newspaper. For example, one that has a musical angle could be equally valid in the music section; a story about a painter could just as easily be filed under 'arts'.
Cracking the Daily Telegraph
I'm quite a happy bunny today, as I've had my first story printed in The Daily Telegraph. I've pitched plenty of ideas there before, but come up against a brick wall. Along with The Sunday Times, it's probably the most prestigious place I've ever been published. But my story wasn't in the travel section.
Travel story, news angle
I can't think why I didn't think of this before, but I decided to pitch the story to the Telegraph's World News editor. It was a story I'd come across on my travels and it was arguably a travel story with a news angle, but I decided to write it as a news story.
The approach worked - the editor liked the idea, bought the story and it was published within three days of my initial approach. Oh if only all travel pieces went that smoothly...
Out of the way places
It did get me thinking about how many other travel stories I could have taken this approach with. It's particularly useful in out of the way places. In my example, news from Samoa doesn't tend to travel very far. The fact that the country is switching to driving on the left from driving on the right makes for a great story, but because hardly anyone pays attention to what's going on there, it's a story that has barely been written about. OK, it's had a tiny bit of coverage in Australia and New Zealand - but not the rest of the world.
Read the papers, listen to the locals
The experience confirms my beliefs that, for the travel writer, it's worth reading local newspapers, listening to local radio stations and talking to local people about what the current big issues are. There's always almost a story to be uncovered - and one that can possibly be sold to a news section.
PS - Yes, I know Samoa isn't an island; it's a collection of them. That's the joy of sub-editors for you.