[Over the past few days, I’ve been in contact with former Lonely Planet author Thomas Kohnstamm via e-mail discussing the recent controversy surrounding him. Since he believes he’s been unfairly criticized, I offered him the opportunity to share his side of the story on Gadling, as he’s already done on World Hum. Here’s what he wrote.]
“When I was discussing some of the difficulties faced by guidebook writers, I explained that it was often difficult to visit every establishment and remote town in person. The journalist asked me if sometimes people never visited the countries at all. I said that there is such a thing as a “desk update,” which is somewhat common in the whole travel publishing industry (although very infrequent at LP).
He asked if I had ever done something like that and I explained that I had written about Colombia even though I had not gone there for the project. He asked why and I explained that there was not enough money for it (my advance was less than the cost of a flight down). Therefore I did a desk update, which was sanctioned by Lonely Planet. They made the decision that I was to write about it from home, not me.
I did normal research and got additional details from the Colombian girl I was dating at the time. Any professional travel writer out there knows that desk updates happen and are sanctioned by the publisher. It is a budgetary reality.”
[Hi, Aaron again. I’d like to, if it’s okay with everyone else, pronounce this “scandal-but-not-really-but-maybe-it-is” officially dead and buried. Rest in peace.]