Aviation is Work … Usually

By Robert Mark on August 18th, 2015
Winair group

The team arrives at St. Barths

I really don’t like traveling much any more. It’s usually way too much work on the airlines, efforts over which I usually have very little control other than complaining a bit on Twitter which doesn’t do much these days anyway. My business jet trips are fewer and farther between than the old days too.

Take my trip last week down to St. Maarten in the Caribbean for a media junket with 10 other writers, about evenly split between aviation and travel journalists. I swear the folks @americanair were trying to see just how cumbersome they could make the trip.

Despite American, I did know St. Maarten would be beautiful. And I knew I’d see a bunch of airplane geeks hanging around the fences at the approach end of SXM’s runway trying not to get blown over when KLM’s 747-400 poured the coals to it on takeoff. Sure the food would probably be scrumptious and yes, I knew I’d surely meet some memorable people from the islands.

But I also knew it was going to be work … the folks at Princess Juliana International airport wanted to show us SXM up close and personal, so we’d go back and tell others, many others what we experienced. I was ready, prepared even, because that’s my job these days, turning my eagle eye on some issue, some person or a place and synthesizing it all into some pithy text to be read by millions.

OK, OK so I’m not much of liar, except that the SXM folks really did want us to experience the region for a week.

And the trip to SXM was incredible, truly incredible. I’ve never seen such pristine waters or breathtaking views that close to sea level.

Certainly there are thanks in order, like the great ladies at SXM – Regina, Annmarie, Suzy and the others – for inviting me to experience the island and its role as a hub to its surrounding neighbors last week, but also a tip of the hat to the other writers who joined me on St. Maarten. While we more experienced writers may possess a wealth of industry knowledge, our younger colleagues also possess a solid grasp on new mthods to use technology for aviation story telling.


Liz Moscrop interviewing St. Barths airport managing director Fabrice Danet

There was Seth from @runwaygirl and @wandrme, who always seemed to be managing three or four different video and still cameras.

Adam from @privatefly who insists his awesome Twin Otter video at St. Barths was only luck – A Close Up Arrival at St.Barths.

Leslie, alias @leslieyip0911, who turned the idea of delivering a Dominos pizza by plane into an awesome 1-minute branding spectacular in one day – Mashable Pizza Delivery Flight. Kristen from @BorderFreeProd, who shot more video about lush travel options and food than all of us put together I think, or @lizmoscrop who never appeared the entire week without her iPhone on a stick ready to shoot the next story. And these are only a few of the journalists I worked with.


St. Maarten’s Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs and Jetwhine Publisher Rob Mark talked aviation for an hour

I can’t forget the print folks … @kcreedy, @allplane, @airdestinations, @hazelking25 and @atastefortravel. I hope I didn’t miss anyone.

And of course the great companies that sponsored part of last week like WinAir – @flywinair – for transportation between the islands, especially Helena De Bekker and the way she jumped into all the extra work we piled on her, Earl Wyatt From Seagrapes and his business partner Sheldon Palm from TLC Aviation and the Sonesta Ocean Point Reesort. There was Michel Hodge from the Airport Board of Directors, Nils Dufau from St. Barths’ tourism office, Greg Hassell and his crew from the SXM control tower that gave us the full ATC tour and of course Cdr. Bud @cdrbud who was the idea man behind much of the week’s events. A bunch of local writers connected with us as well like Fabian Badejo and Darlene Hodge. And who could forget our most excellent photographer Alain Duzant.

What made this week so valuable was not just the number of writers the SXM airport people invited, but the vast array of talent everyone represented. We all learned so much from watching Seth and Kristen and Leslie and the rest. That translates into better stories for airports like SXM and the industry as a whole. Just as I know writing a great piece of prose takes more than simply pasting words on paper, telling a good story in video is much tougher than simply pointing an iPhone at everything that moves. But I’m learning.

My own efforts landed me a one-on-one audio interview with St. Maarten’s Prime Minister, Marcel Gumbs, on Thursday as he spoke about the role of aviation on St. Maarten and the region. But just before I ran out of his downtown office, I asked if we could take a selfie to which he quickly agreed.

Watch for more over the next few weeks as we all use our individual talents to help bring the Princess Julian International Airport in focus to as many of our combined readers as we can.

BTW, I never did stand behind that KLM 747 when it took off. Other people did and some of this crack SXM communications team captured it all, especially Leslie’s encounter with one local resident who’d apparently had enough of us all by Friday … Journalist Attacked.

Rob Mark, Publisher


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7 Responses to “Aviation is Work … Usually”

  1. David Hipschman Says:

    I have always thought that real journalists, and there are few such in aviation, don’t take free junkets. Back when I worked in the newspaper business it was usually a firing offense. That said, “FAM” trips were always OK for travel section writers … but that’s not journalism.
    Glad you had a good time. Meanwhile, tell my buddy Scott hello.

  2. Robert Mark Says:

    You raise an interesting point David. From what I know, these kind of things happen more often that we all know.

    The stories of mine and my colleagues wouldn’t be happening at all if the trip hadn’t taken place because there wasn’t specific news hook to the trip.

    Personally, I don’t have an issue with this unless writers try to imply they took care of all the details themselves and hence have no bias. I knew perfectly well that we were being entertained AND informed by the people from the Princess Juliana International airport.

    As I continue to produce stories, like my upcoming interview with the St. Maarten Prime Minister, I think I can call them as I see them enough to be honest.

    I also believe the airport and all of the associated sponsors expect a few flies in the ointment along the way too.

    Thanks for raising the issue.

  3. Kathryn Creedy Says:

    I agree with Rob. Most professionals who provide such trips expect to take lumps along with the good coverage. They don’t complain and understand that makes the coverage more honest. Yes, we had fun and yes the enthusiasm of our hosts was infectious. But hard work was still going on. The work SXM is doing is important and these venue get little coverage as it is. Cheers — Kathryn

  4. Christian Kjelgaard Says:

    I sincerely hope the coverage I have produced and continue to produce about SXM Airport, Winair, the Sonesta Ocean Poont Resort and the island of Saint Barth, for a variety of clients,including AINonline.com, does not imply bias because my trip was paid for by SXM Airport and others. The only bias that I think can be construed from my news coverage (I have produced four news stories so far, with more to come: I found plenty of news topics to write about) is that these news stories would not have appeared at all had I not been there to record what I was told by the aviation people in Sint Maarten and on Saint Barth. You may believe me and others when we say we asked them some pretty hard questions and didn’t swallow all their responses credulously.

  5. Alain M. Duzant Says:

    This was not a “timeshare” or “casino” free junket trip! These folks came here to see, feel and ask questions and they DID and got the REAL answers!I was with them most of the time as a photographer. I also made sure that they got answers to their questions about the “real caribbean”, whereas most of the “other” reporters post and write, what THEY are paid to write! It was a pleasure being with the entire group, love their honest writing and I LOVE my island, that is where I was born! Shame on you to think otherwise!

  6. Cdr. Bud Slabbaert Says:

    Independent journalists and writers usually dont have a full time job and not the budget to travel often or to travel far. If that opportunity is not available, they will not have much of a horizon.
    Limiting them to only travel to major conferences and receive PR briefings and see exhibited material, one might wonder how much they know of the real world. They may become biased or develop a tunnel vision.

    If an opportunity is offered to travel without preconditions to write, I dont see anything against it. If one has any doubts about the integrity of a particular journalist, well. If one has any doubts about the integrity of 11 journalists, most of them dont know each other, and what they write, one slowly has to wonder about the person who questions that integrity.

    When 11 journalists (USA, Canada, UK, Spain) write for 30+ media outlets with different stories about different subjects, and all is positive, there must be something about that location and wothwhile finding out about it as a service to readers and viewers.

    If one journalists by coincidence finds out that a Prime Minister was traffic controller for 14 years and then decides to report on that, it is not staged, its spontaneous. It was not staged because the journalist had to wait 2 hours to get the interview because the PM had something more important to do. If a travel writer from the Toronto Star by coincidence finds out that the Chef de Cuisine of a local 5-start restaurant happens to be from Toronto, then a spontaneous interview is the result. Try to find that out from a desk a couple of thousand miles away.

    So if one is nailed to that desk or stuck with a limited travel budget, the audiences will not get much or quality news or information. So, one might as well question that kind of writing and editing.

    Who am I to say? I organized this media trip, I made a selection out of 200+ journalist. I made a short list and screened them. I made sure that none of them was looking for a nice vacation trip. I also selected them by the quality of their published work and what synergy might be expected in a group. They soemetimes held cameras for each other. At any time, if any of the journalists found a topic that suited him/her, they could leave the group and pursue it. Sometimes special transport arrangements were made for this particular journalist to go and see what he/she believed was interesting for an audience. I had my hands full frequently changing arrangements and making phone calls to make things happen. At times, I had journalists in four different locations on three different islands and coordinate that to get them back in time in one place. It was never a kind of museum tour. The overall principle was to bring them to the location, provide basic information, and accommodate them so that they can explore on their own and write about what they believed was interesting for their audiences.

    If there is still some doubt, mind that independent journalists are not managing editors. The editors determine what is published. And if the independent journalist does not perform according to standards or policies set by the chief editor or the media outlet, that independent journalist will not get much published because the media outlet has a reputation to protect.

    So, if this media trip is questioned, it might be the questioning the integrity of 11 independent journalists, the editors that they write for, and myself. These eleven were fortunate to be able to explore what others cannot, and certainly not those others who may develop an opinion behind a desk without having a hands-on experience on location or of a situation.

  7. Monir Hossen // Aviation Says:

    I agree with u. Who provide such trips expect to take lumps along with the good coverage. They dont complain and understand that makes the coverage more honest. Yes, we had fun and yes the enthusiasm of our hosts was infectious. But hard work was still going on. The work SXM is doing is important and these venue get little coverage as it is.

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