I was just in LA working to promote my new Travel as a Political Act book. I got to be on the Tavis Smiley Show(which will air nationally on PBS starting this Friday). He is a beautiful man, and it was a joy to sit down with him (cameras rolling) and explain how my passion for getting value out of travel fits his passion for America getting it right.
It’s occurring to me that being a PBS celebrity and living in Seattle isn’t the best recipe for getting media exposure. Media is commercial — advertising is its lifeblood. I went to Rachael Ray headquarters last week in NYC for an “informational interview” with one of her editors. While she may be the emerging Martha Stewart (and I find her smile strangely mesmerizing), it was clear from our meeting that my passion for people-to-people travel didn’t fit their corporate-friendly approach to tourism. We politely chit-chatted for a few minutes, each of us wondering, “Who set up this interview?”…and then said “best wishes,” knowing we were as different as a front door and a back door, and that nothing would come of that meeting.
On the other hand, I’ve been able to talk with Bob Edwards (PBS and Sirius — big mind, inspirationally insightful, a thrill to talk with for 40 minutes), Alan Colmes (Fox Radio — a fun and very engaging man), lots of NPR hosts, and the extremely progressive Pacifica radio in LA. In each case, we had enthusiastic conversations, and know that we’ll be talking more in the future.
Getting all this media to promote a book is exhausting, time-consuming, and an almost demoralizing struggle. But yesterday I sat in a chair still warm from the interviewee before me — Francis Ford Coppola. If the exposure was worth it for him to talk up his new movie…I guess it’s worth it for me to talk up my new book.
One thing has occurred to me over the 20-some interviews I’ve done in the last week: Encouraging people to make travel a political act may get me on progressive radio stations, but that kind of travel is something the industry in general will never embrace. Tourism is huge money, with lots of investments, and it’s a challenge to keep travelers blindered and focused on the commercial aspect of tourism.
By most accounts, tourism and armaments are the two biggest industries on earth. Using tourism to build understanding between cultures and peoples helps the short-term bottom line of neither.