A summary of our September 3, 2009 speaker, Scott McMurren
by Kay Vreeland and Sonya Senkowsky
Scott McMurren, Alaska’s premier travel blogger and longtime Anchorage Daily News travel columnist, spoke at the September 3 luncheon. He underscored his passion for travel–particularly cheap travel – and all the wonders that it can bring to the intrepid with handouts, including an informational flyer listing local travel deals (and link information for his blog/newsletter, Alaska Travelgram). Both of his travel coupon books, Great Alaskan Toursaver and Seattle Toursaver, were also available at an end-of-season 40 percent discount.
Though now known mostly for his online and on-air exploits, McMurren began by telling of his long print journalism past. He grew up in a family of journalists and media experts. His grandmother was the first woman Associated Press bureau chief, and his grandfather worked as a publisher for William Randolph Hearst. A life and career rooted in print journalism began for young Scott at age 11, when he delivered papers for the Washington Post, and continued through his college journalism degree, up until the day his newspaper travel column was discontinued in February after a 26-year run.
Since launching himself on the Web as a blogger, McMurren may now boast 15,000 subscribers to his online newsletter. He is also a regular columnist/contributor with online publication Alaska Dispatch. In addition, he also works “social media” nonstop, using sites such as Facebook and Twitter to direct followers to new postings and deals.
Being in new media means a journalist is always “on,” McMurren told us. When asked how many hours he spends on his Web work, he likes to say, “all of ‘em.” Today’s cyber-journalism, he explains, is a person’s “lifestream.” And, to properly inspire confidence and communicate authenticity, it’s a job that cannot and should not be outsourced. Bottom line, McMurren said, the secret to not burning out on an always-on schedule is to enjoy one’s work. His goal, he says: to enjoy everything he does 100 percent.
Of course, the man loves to travel. But the fun and adventure inherent in McMurren’s work have also included learning new ways to reach blog readers and viewers. For example, to enliven his blog, he’s learned how to shoot video, to be able to post such items as a first-person view of the “Alaska Canopy Tour” he took while riding a zipline through rainforest in Ketchikan.
Setting a small-but-high-definition-quality handheld video camera atop a tripod, he demonstrated to our group just how portable a professional-quality setup can be. (The resulting video is high enough quality to be used on television, too, he pointed out.)
More than a Web marketer of travel services, McMurren is proud to call himself a travel “evangelist.” He does not shy from the religious connotation; a minister’s son, he appears to have come by the comparison (and a certain dramatic flair) honestly. He had our group laughing at several points as he compared his mannerisms and voice to those of an over-enthusiastic preacher.
Finally, McMurren shared that travel is important to him because he believes in it as a leg of diplomacy — a way to learn about the world. And if we call can’t get out into the world to do the traveling he does? He urged us to host an exchange student – another learning experience he has tried and highly recommends.