So there's this article on CNN.com about a writer for Lonely Planet who says the company didn't pay him enough to travel to Columbia, so he got the information to write the book from some "chick" he was dating. Not only that, but he claims he dealt drugs to supplement "low pay." The worst part is that he's bragging about it in a book about his nefarious deeds. Boy, did he pull one over on "the man" or what? What a clever, clever man.
My initial reaction, obviously, is anger. The last thing I need to hear is a bunch of whining and bragging from some douche who has the job I want. Of course, being CNN, the article doesn't go into any detail regarding exactly how much the writer was being paid for his work or how it compared to fair market prices for travel writing. Maybe it was a pittance and the writer was rightfully indignant. Maybe he's not alone. Maybe a large percentage of travel writers engage in similar unethical practices. Even so, I'm not sure I can get behind the growing trend of writers behaving badly and then profiting from it with a book that delineates what they got away with and how they got away with it. Not only is this morally problematic, it's annoying to me as a reader. The implication always seems to be that I'm the rube because I play by the rules and expect quality information for my $30 while the writer is an evil genius who's always one step ahead of his/her employers and audience.
The article makes Mr. Kohnstamm out to be one of those self-entitled, Richie Rich murder suspects from a crime scene investigation show: "So what if I did it? Lonely Planet was just a dirty trailer park whore who had it coming. You'll never pin it on me! Mwah hah hah, suckers!"
Maybe I'm just angry because I have a stack of Lonely Planet guides on the bookshelf. And, predictably, I think any guy who gets paid to travel and write about it should be thanking his lucky stars. Sure, I don't know what working for Lonely Planet is really like, but I can't imagine its the sweatshop environment that Mr. Kohnstamm makes it out to be. And he uses the word "chick" to refer to his ladyfriends like he's some commuter-school frat boy.
So anyway, if Lonely Planet is looking for a writer to abuse, they can bend me over any way they like.
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