Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Killing two birds with one stone

There was an article published in today's Sydney Morning Herald discussing how travel writer Thomas Kohnstamm has been fabricating content that was previously published in a few of South American Lonely Planet travel guides. This story was of particular interest, as those that know me, are aware that I am venturing overseas to South America in early June this year.

Perhaps I am quite cynical in thinking that this could just be a PR/marketing ploy, which is what has most recently been mentioned in the online forum LP has set up. The publicity generated not only is good for Kohnstamm's new book coming out, it's beneficial for all those travel worry warts who'll invest in a new Lonely Planet.

The tranquilo traveler has included a few links on the story - fascinating to see the widespread international coverage. There is also quite a long blog, with lots of passionate comments listed Brave New Travler . Eva Holland sums it up quite nicely:

Kohnstamm has done several things at once here:

1. Seriously undermined the credibility of an enormous publishing house that - in my opinion, anyway - does some pretty good work in the world
2. Re-proven in the minds of many editors that travel writers as a group are not to be taken seriously - and hey, guess what, it doesn’t benefit any of us in the long run to be considered a bunch of plagiarizing hacks
3. Taken opportunities away from other young writers who might have actually been willing to do the job they were paid for
4. And done it all deliberately, in the name of his own self-enrichment. Nice guy, right?

Luckily, the contribution of Kohnstamm to the travel guides does not seem to be substantial - and newer editions have been published without his content. I guess it just means travellers can't rely on one source for their knowledge on a topic, something that should be really reflected in all audiences of all texts.

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