Amanda Black – Associate Editor, ShermansTravel
For ten years, ShermansTravel has carved a niche in the travel website arena. Providing up to 1,000 bargains on flights, hotels, cruises and vacation packages at any given time, the site bills itself as a premier source of hand-picked deals and expert advice. Wanderlust-inclined consumers who peruse the site might not always be familiar with the editorial and research processes that help them score escapes to paradise.
Amanda Black, associate editor for ShermansTravel since February, offers some insight.
“ShermansTravel is an interesting combination,” she said. “We present a mix of Budget Travel and Travel Zoo with both deals and editorial content. We’re still in the aspirational travel realm as, say,Conde Nast Traveler, but we go about creating content in a different way because our readers are looking for deals and money saving tips, yet still want to have a luxurious trip. So we think of our content as smart luxury. We’re still going to feature high luxury travel styles, but also giving some saving ideas. A lot of different things have to be taken into account in terms of our readership.”
Many young journalists would view Black’s position as the proverbial dream job, especially so early in her career and given that her assignments will take her across the map. But in addition to being able to visit well and lesser-known destinations, she relishes the opportunity to build and implement a certain crucial skill within her journeys.
“It’s definitely a dream job in regards to the traveling and a very exciting role to be in,” Black said. “I’m handling the site’s blogs, so I’m getting a lot of social media experience with our round-the-hour social media platforms on Facebook and Twitter. It’s interesting because I’ve never handled that type of content before. It’s a cool way to determine if what I’m writing about is buzz-worthy and it’s definitely a skill that is very important nowadays.”
For all her enthusiasm to utilize social media, Black still appreciates traditional media. She believes print publications, while constantly adapting and offering online counterparts, will remain a viable medium for certain purposes.
“I personally think the print medium will always be around, especially for topics such as weddings and travel. Readers want to have something tangible that they can tear out and hang up on their walls as part of their visions,” Black said. “But in a lot of ways, so much is going online now, such as on tablets. So it’s important to keep in mind the different types of experiences for each of those mediums.”
Black is particularly sensitive to the need to adjust writing accordingly for different mediums. Readability, in her opinion, is key.
“When I’m online, I want something quick, easily digestible. So features like top 10 lists and slideshows are really easy to consume online because they’re fast and there’s not a lot of text. When I want to read something long-form, I look to magazines,” she explained. “So it’s about always having an eye on what you enjoy and realizing readers might share those interests, then bringing that to your work.”
While she acknowledges that travel writing is a different realm for her, Black credits her previous experience working as an assistant editor for The Knot Magazine for instilling principles of good journalism.
“I had only been to one or two weddings when I took on that role, so I learned how to immerse myself and become well-versed in a topic by talking to experts and setting up Google alerts,” she said. “And in working for such a well-known national publication, I definitely maintained a solid work ethic of working efficiently, prioritizing and being super-organized.”
With both her parents being English majors, Black naturally caught the journalism bug in high school, when she interned weekly for her community newspaper. But it wasn’t long before she realized that feature writing appealed more to her than the hard deadlines of news writing. She went on to intern for Real Simple which reinforced her preference for magazine writing. After college, she set her sights on New York and pounded the pavement, eventually landing at The Knot.
She’s grateful to Kathleen Harris and Maura Fritz, the managing editor and deputy editor of the Real Simple website, for guiding her as a journalist in the making, and she emphasizes to aspiring journalists the importance of staying in touch with mentors. “It’s all about networking and maintaining friendships with those who’ve helped build you and foster your talent,” said Black.
She also notes the importance of building up portfolios and constantly honing one’s writing skills.
“This industry breeds a lot of passion with seeing your name in print and ‘immortalized’. So blogging can definitely help get your name out there. Practice your craft and take classes through sites likemediabistro.com. Those efforts, in addition to networking, will help you get a job when you least expect it. Most importantly, don’t give up!”
For those aspiring to become travel writers, Black states the obvious. “It definitely helped that I traveled a lot. You don’t necessarily have to be a world traveler, but just in the United States, knowing about the coolest places and locales will help you break into this particular realm.”
Black seeks what she describes as quirky ideas for the ShermansTravel blogs. “We’re posting things such as ‘Awkward Travel Photos’ or ‘Secrets of Flight Attendants,’ so out of the box pitches are welcome,” she said.
For longer form stories, the site is aiming to increase the number of informative articles, such as ‘Travel Insurance 101’.
“I’m updating a lot of top 10 lists, ranging from the top barbeque spots to top romantic destinations. So I’ll definitely be looking for a lot of ‘newsy’ topics and interesting content to report.”
Given the visual intensity of the site and the slideshows provided, she said images are always encouraged with pitches. She prefers to be contacted via email.
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