Here's a note for people who edit travel articles for publications around the world. It's a plea, really.
The next time someone submits an article about Orlando with an opening sentence along the lines of, "There's more to Orlando than theme parks," send the article back for rewrite and tell the author to come up with something more original. That line has been done. Ad nauseam.
The latest iteration is in an article for the New York Times' 36 Hours In... series. I assume that 36 Hours in Orlando will run Feb. 11. It started appearing online last week, but Sunday's article was 36 Hours in Calgary, which the writer somehow didn't feel the need to open with, "There's more to Calgary that stocking caps and moose heads."
The lede for the most recent Orlando day and a half piece is: "Ever since the early 1960s, when Walt Disney chose Central Florida as the location for his most extensive theme park, Walt Disney World, Orlando has been synonymous with mouse ears, thrill rides and daily parades. But most locals readily divulge that fantasy fulfillment has little to do with the real life of urban Orlando."
The last time the Times featured Orlando, in March 2011, the opening read: "PEOPLE who live in the Orlando area will tell you that there is life here beyond the theme parks, gator farms and citrus groves."
And it's not just the New York Times. Here's an article just posted this week on Newsday's website: "Sometimes you just can’t take another minute in a theme park — the lines, the humidity, the jostling crowds, the screaming kids (and sometimes screaming parents) or too many renditions of “It’s a Small World.” What else to do?
"Plenty. Orlando, Florida, and its surroundings aren’t only about princesses and wizards. Here are some favorite escapes, most within an hour’s drive of the parks."
We get it. There's a history and a preconception about the area. But I've been reading this same opening for more than 15 years, and it's getting old. It's not only become stereotypical, it demonstrates lazy writing.
I'm hoping the New York Times will hire me to write the 36 Hours in New York article. Here's my lede: "Once you tire of gawking at the billboards and having your picture taken with half naked people and hustlers dressed in flithy costumes, you'll discover that there's more to New York than Times Square. And locals will tell you (using colorful language) that most of the neighborhoods can be accessed via a train that runs underground!"
Or my pitch for Chicago: "If you think it's all gangsters and a river dyed green, get ready for the Windy City to blow you away."
I'm longing for the Orlando travel piece that doesn't even mention the theme parks, unless that's the focus of the story. And we all know that a vast majority of the 68 million people who visit Central Florida every year want to know about the theme parks. That's great. Come, spend.
But writers, if your article isn't about the theme parks, or wizards or princesses don't mention them. Open by talking about the charming neighborhoods. Lead the article with some of the fun and relaxing things to do. Or start the article with the tease like the one in Sunday's 36 Hours in Calgary: "A new generation of chefs is championing locally sourced menus, and a relaxation of liquor production laws has led to a boom in microbreweries."
That's nice, and it's not stereotyped. It's a good piece written by Elaine Glusac.
She also wrote the one posted about Orlando last week.