Danish Newspaper Will Cut Most Flying and Change Its Travel Section

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CC BY 2.0. SAS Museum, Norway/ Traveling in style on SAS

There is a lot of money to be made in the travel section. Should other media follow their example?

Travel sections make a lot of money for newspapers, and one of the great perks of being a writer is that you get to travel at someone else's expense. As the old photos from SAS show, Scandinavians know how to do it in style.

So it is really surprising to read about plans at the Danish newspaper Politiken to drastically curtail travelling by its writers. They will immediately stop domestic flying and will offset all flights that they do take.

But more importantly, they are changing their travel section. Editor-in-chief Christian Jensen says that they are going to refocus their coverage:

1) Do more coverage of travel in Denmark, the Nordic countries and Northern Europe, which can be reached by public transport.

2) Drop the Weekend Guide format because it can be perceived as a call to take long flights for a weekend. (This is a very big deal, given that Europeans can fly so cheaply, cross borders quickly in the EU, and do it a lot.)

3) Reduce the number of overseas trips to a maximum of one per release.

sas ham is very big

© SAS Museum, Norway/ That's a big ham!

Via Google Translate, he explains that travel is a good thing, but can be done better:

We should not make enemies of foreign travel and friends with the hometown band. We must discover the alien, taste the exotic and feel the warm blood roll in the encounter with the folkloric diversity. But it does not exclude that one can think well of the climate along the way. As a newspaper, we do not believe in information via the raised index finger. We believe that we can change habits if we give merciful inspiration and concrete information about the consequences of the choices we make – each and every one as a society.

This is an issue we have wrestled with at TreeHugger. It has been a decade since we wrote about how flying is dying, quoting George Monbiot who said, "If we want to stop the planet from cooking, we will simply have to stop traveling at the kind of speeds that planes permit." Meteorologist Eric Holthaus quit flying and notes that a jet-setting culture in which people travel around the globe for a few days or a week is “not compatible with a future that is livable."

SAS buffet

SAS Museum, Norway/ buffet in first class/CC BY 2.0

Yet I still fly to conferences and love seeing new places, although I do feel guilty and tried to justify it here. Katherine, who also feels a bit guilty, has suggestions for making travel a bit less damaging. But Christian Jensen in Denmark is convinced that we have to change the way we travel and the way journalists cover it:

We believe that there is a path where growth and sustainability on the one hand can co-exist with consumption and reason on the other. It is the balance that we seek to find also in our travel journalism. We believe that one can think of the future of the planet and at the same time be pleased to discover the world.

Politiken deserves a lot of praise for their actions; they could take a financial hit from the Easyjet-style weekend advertising. However, Jensen thinks that both customers and travel advertisers are also going in a more climate-conscious direction. "That is how it all hangs together."