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VT Cast #19: The Canadian Media & VolunTourism

Synopsis

What are nonprofit organizations doing in order to become more connected to VolunTourism? What collaborations are they forming with tour operators and suppliers? How are they utilizing VolunTourism as a revenue generator? This is some of what wil be explored on the next episode of The VolunTourist.

Copyright © Debra Cummings, All Rights Reserved

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Past Webcast - December 18, 2007
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Guests

Debra Cummings, Travel Editor, Cummings & Goings [Bio]; Jeff Minthorn, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Verge Magazine [Bio].

Quotables

[On how VolunTourism opens the door to nontraditional coverage of either travel, volunteering, or both...]

"Yeah, that's a really good point, because one of the things that sort of irked me about travel journalism is that it's always sort of destination-based and it gets stuffed into travel sections of newspapers, where I have worked before. But this sort of moved it into a whole other realm where travel was almost secondary and it became more of a lifestyle piece. And that's... you know, if I had just said to Reader's Digest (Canada), 'I'd like to write a travel log for a year,' I don't think they would have gone for it. And they really wanted me to sort of explore the whole emotional scape of our family as we were traveling and volunteering; I think that's what got me that story. And, as a writer, that was much more challening than just writing a destination story.

It was actually a real joy to write because, you know, I was interviewing my kids all the time, I was constantly taking notes and trying to observe the world through their eyes and document the changes as we went along. So it was much more, it was a much more interesting 'write' for me and probably, our hope, a better read for people, too. So it was like travel writing with a lot of substance, which is what Verge Magazine is all about, too. So, yes, of course the travel is a part of it, huge part of it, but it's what's motivating that travel that is the more interesting story. And I'd like to think that that's moving in, in, into other realms as well." Debra Cummings

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[On the responsibility of the media as it pertains to VolunTourism...]

"I'm actually glad you asked that. I agree with you, I think you're spot on. I think there should be a responsibility as a journalist, as a reporter, as an editor in everything you write. There is a responsibility to kind of, tell it like it is - be honest, factual - with, I think there's a, there's that sense of that it's super-important with anything where volunteering is concerned or where these sorts of organizations and arrangements and opportunities are occurring. I think in part because it is so clearly the case that your actions, or the actions you as a writer/journalist are encouraging, say, have an effect - a serious and significant effect - on another community. And so, you're not, it's not something that occurs in isolation.

An article about a cruise ship - a cruise ship is a fairly, in some ways, an abstract, inanimate thing, so you can write what you want about the cruise ship or the resort. But when you're talking about a vacation that involves a group of, well, in this case say, North Americans, dropping into some community, potentially a remote community who doesn't have a lot of contact with... the effects can be significant. And so in terms of responsibility, I think it is important - personally I think it's important for Verge (Magazine) and for media generally - to make people aware of that, to point that out, that this is not just, that this is not about you, you know, solely. There are some fairly siginificant effects that this can have - both positive and sometimes negative. So I think that's a really important point. I could go on; I'll leave it there.

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Guest Bios

Debra Cummings, Travel Editor, Cummings & Goings

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After getting tossed in a Moroccan slammer for a nefarious deed she never committed Debra Cummings has finally gotten the hang of Third World travel. But it's taken this award-winning journalist 25 years.

In those two decades Deb has worked as a travel writer and editor at the Calgary Sun and Herald, a start-up website known as Tripeze.com and at Travel Alberta for three years. With her backpack always ready she roved around most of Europe and Asia for work, waiting for the opportune time to pull her two children out of school to pursue a full year of travel. Her work appears in numerous North American newspapers and magazines with her latest being a four-part series in Reader's Digest. These pieces focused on "voluntourism" which was the theme behind this recent 12-month trip around the world.

The Cummings-Lazenby clan has just returned after travelling to 15 countries and volunteering with Operation Eyesight in Kenya, an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, an orphanage in India and a ranch in Australia. Before her one-year sabbatical Debra worked as a writer/editor at Travel Alberta for three years. Her two children, Siobhan, now 14, missed Grade 8 and Quinn, 11, missed Grade 5, but were able to slide back into their respective grades and are itching to go, anywhere, again.

We just finished volunteering at the Mustard Seed (a Calgary-based charity for homeless people) on Boxing Day where we worked on the foodline. At the end of the night, Quinn, took off his apron and hair net and announced: “Well, mom, that felt good . . . it was like we were travelling again.”

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Jeff Minthorn, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Art Director, Verge Magazine

Jeff hails from Waterloo, Ontario and has worked and studied on four continents and travelled to six, including a season's worth of expeditions to Antarctica. With degrees in Environmental Studies and Architecture from the University of Waterloo, Jeff has a solid background in design, which he makes good use of in his art director role. Before co-founding Verge magazine, he worked for eight years as an outdoor education instructor and guide. He is a great believer in experiential education and sees Verge Magazine as a means of encouraging more people to learn about the world by experiencing as much of it as possible.

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