What is the role of National Parks Traveler? For long-time readers, that might be easy to answer, but it has evolved and continues to evolve.
The short answer is the Traveler seeks to fill a niche in providing coverage of the National Park System. As more and more daily newspapers shrink their staffing, coverage of the parks has been shrinking right along. More and more papers turn to The Associated Press, or other wire services, to cover the bases when it comes to the national parks. And that can often result in short, bare bones stories.
We strive to fill the gaps through a combination of editing where necessary and relaying National Park Service releases and generating our own original reporting through an unsalaried network of volunteers, contributing writers, editors, and photographers. We also don't mind running thoughtful and in-depth articles, as demonstrated by Dr. Alfred Runte's dissection of two books on Yosemite National Park, our look at the draft general management plan for Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and Danny Bernstein's series on walking Le Chemin de St. Jacques in France.
As we say on our "About" page, "The Traveler is not a static site built around park statistics and trail descriptions and is not strictly a travelogue. Rather, it offers readers a unique multimedia blend of news, feature content, debate, and discussion..." Now, while that original mission statement placed an emphasis on "America's national parks," we are slowly expanding to cover parks the world over, for we believe readers interested in national park coverage here in the States don't mind a little international flavor from time to time. That's part of our evolution.
A key part of that coverage is assessing the different views and positions of stakeholders, managers, politicians and, of course, you, the readers, which is why we encourage your comments, as long as they remain constructive and not combative. We also welcome guest op-ed columns, no matter what side of an issue you might be on.
Our larger mission is to nurture advocates and stewards for the national parks. Whether you worry that national park visitation is flat or shrinking, or that many parks are near capacity during the high seasons, there always is a need for someone to speak out for the parks or to volunteer their time for them, or embark on a career that will land them somewhere in the park system.
We also play a role in connecting you with your favorite parks, and connecting friends groups and cooperating associations with supporters they might have on the other side of the country. No other medium exists that provides daily coverage of the national parks to a global audience. So if you live in California, but fell in love with Acadia National Park years ago, or live in South Carolina and can't stop thinking about Olympic National Park, the Traveler can help keep you connected both to your favorite park and news surrounding it, news that probably won't show up in your local paper.
The Traveler is not part of the National Park Service, and not affiliated with it in any way. (But we hope NPS employees will support us and our goal of showing visitors how best to enjoy the parks.) We also are not part of a larger media kingdom, nor are we underwritten by a foundation.
We have been able to deliver a fairly robust array of park coverage through the support of writers who value national parks as much as you do. We have definite plans for how we want to guide Traveler's evolution -- more podcasts and videos, more original reporting, including critical reviews of concessions operations, more expansive coverage of the National Park System, more voices among our writers, and more special publications, such as our quarterly travel guides to the parks and our upcoming paddling guide to the park system.
We hope those ideas excite you, and that you will help support them. Quite honestly, this evolution can't succeed without your support, both moral and financial. While some advertisers appreciate our audience, others haven't quite figured out how best to leverage the Internet.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is the Traveler can't survive without revenues. As POLITICO wrote when it decided last May to experiment with a subscription model, "The collective decision by media companies to give away for free a product of high value and high cost will go down as one of the worst, self-defeating moves in the history of the industry."
With the centennial of the National Park Service little more than two years off, ongoing, and bolstered, coverage of the agency is just as important as broader and more in-depth coverage of the parks it oversees. If you value our coverage, we hope you'll support it by becoming a Traveler member. If your business or organization is tied to the national parks, advertise with us or sponsor us to reach a well-defined niche of park lovers. And through your combined support, we can provide this vital coverage of the parks that other media outlets are passing over.