Ask any aspiring outdoor writer what his or her favorite part of the job is, and many will say something about media trips. Some call them “media meet and greets” or “product introduction trips” or “press camps.” In the travel industry, they’re known as “fam” (familiarization) trips. I usually refer to them as “media junkets,” and I’ve been on a lot of them through the years.
Some have been wonderful; some have been terrible. Some have been lavish; others were Spartan beyond words. Some have been memorable; some were so forgettable they seemed to vanish before my eyes. I attended one last week that was a textbook example of an excellent junket. Truth be told, I rarely even go anymore unless I know with confidence that they’re going to be productive.
What makes a good junket for me these days is quite different than what I looked for in the early days of my career. Back then, I was interested in location. Would the fishing be good? What about the food?
As the digital age came into play, connectivity became a concern. Only on rare occasions do I agree to go places where my cell phone won’t get at least two bars. (In fact, I chose my cell phone carrier on that basis alone. If I can get a cell signal, I can set up a personal hotspot and with a personal hotpot, I can work.)
Fishing? Well, good fishing is nice, but it’s important to remember that I’m not there to fish. Lots of “writers” forget this, but not the real pros. Show me a media person who spends his junket time talking about the fishing and I’ll show you a media person who likely won’t be invited back. I can give you a long list of writers who are not welcome with a lot of companies for just this reason. I won’t list them here, in part, to spare their feelings, but mostly because their incompetence makes the rest of us look good.
Where fish pictures can be critical, oftentimes the fish are caught before the junket starts and kept in tanks until the media arrives. Then they’re doled out to the pro staff anglers as “picture fish.” With that variable out of the way, everyone can focus on work, but it means little or no fishing is done. And you can bet that the most prominent pro staff anglers get the biggest and best picture fish.
Show me a junket invitation that offers a quality group of attendees (pro staff anglers who are good interviews, knowledgeable industry reps, etc.), a solid venue (photogenic and with some fish to work with), decent accommodations and a direct (or nearly direct) flight, and I’ll consider it. Leave out some of those essentials, and I’ll find an excuse not to be there.
“Sorry, but those dates conflict with my dentist’s nephew’s junior high school volleyball loser’s bracket semifinal.”
Excuses are easy to come by, even when I really want to go. There’s always work to be done, and it can rarely wait until the trip is over. Staying on top of it is a challenge that I fail too often. I’d like to go on more junkets, but the nuts and bolts of my job keep me at the desk. Luckily, I like that part of being an outdoor writer, too … you know, the writing part.
My junket last week was with Lew’s and Gene Larew Lures and was coordinated by Gary Dollahon, a top industry public relations professional who knows what he’s doing and how to benefit his clients. The pros were there — Tommy Biffle, Paul Elias, David Fritts, Wally Marshall, Chad Morgenthaler, John Murray, Terry Scroggins, Jacob Wheeler and more. Key company reps were there. The venue was legendary Toledo Bend Reservoir, and the accommodations were comfortable and spacious. In fact, I had a big cabin all to myself (though that may have been because no one was willing to share with me). As a result, I got a lot done.
Not every junket is so successful. I’ve stayed in places that were so terrible no one should have paid for them, I’ve worked with “pros” I never heard of, and I’ve eaten food I believe cockroaches would have ignored. At times, it’s all part of the job.
Maybe this is more insight into the life of an outdoor writer than you ever wanted. If that’s the way you feel, I respect that. But I also figure the more each of us understands about the other roles in the world of sportfishing, the better we know our industry. That’s important, not just so we can fill in the blanks, but so we can communicate more clearly, appreciate each other’s needs and make our industry stronger.
Plus, you might invite me on a really great junket!