For our latest Q&A with the winners of the 2020 Travel Media Awards, we spoke to Francesca Street about the impact of Covid-19, what makes a travel story stand out and how she works with the CNN Travel team
How do you feel about winning this award — for the second time?
I am over the moon to win the Breaking Travel News award for a second year running. It’s such an honour, especially be recognised alongside such brilliant journalists who have covered this nonstop year in travel news, including my CNN Travel colleague Julia Buckley. I am really proud of CNN Travel’s output and it’s wonderful to be recognized in this way.
Has Covid-19 changed the way you report travel news?
Coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic has been an important part of CNN Travel’s output over the past year — and of course we have all been working from home since last March — but I don’t think the pandemic has particularly changed how we report travel news. As a travel section on a global news website, the CNN Travel team has always approached our stories with an eye on the news cycle. CNN Travel articles feature on CNN’s US and International homepages, alongside other breaking news stories.
The CNN Travel team is spread out across the world, and in some ways working from home has led to even more international collaboration, as we have all been keeping in touch via regular video calls. When it’s appropriate, we will work together on pieces, combining digital writes with video and other interactive features. It has been great to stay connected and collaborate with colleagues from across the world, even while we’re all at home.
What do you think are the biggest challenges of working in this sector?
It has been interesting this past year balancing coverage of the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry with escapist and uplifting features that look ahead to when we can travel again.
In recent months, we organised a call-out for readers to share their memorable, unbelievable or favourite travel experiences, which has led to some great, heartwarming pieces that have been really fun to work on, and have provided a balance to our important pandemic reporting.
What led you to your position at CNN?
I started working at CNN as a digital features intern in July 2016, right after I graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature. While living in Edinburgh, I interned and later freelanced for The Herald newspaper in Glasgow, writing travel and culture features. I also did some work experience at The Independent and Sky News’ Edinburgh bureau.
CNN has a great paid internship scheme and many journalists who work in the London bureau started out as an interns here, once upon a time. During the internship, you are embraced as a member of the team and given opportunities to pitch your own pieces and hone your skills.
After my three-month internship came to an end, I stayed on with the features team for a few months before an opportunity arose to work with Travel. I’ve been with CNN’s Travel team since January 2017. I’m part of a great team at CNN, and we’ve all been there for one another from afar while we work from home.
What makes a really good travel news story?
A great travel news story should be informative and factually accurate, but also engaging and make an impact.
I think on-the-ground information and quotes from interviewees is often what makes a travel news story stand out, so when it’s appropriate, I will always lead a story with an individual’s experiences. Over the past year, I reported extensively on how Covid-19 impacted the cruise industry, so for months I was in communication with passengers and crew members caught up in the crisis. Sometimes the individuals on board were quicker to update me than the cruise companies, but more importantly I think including those voices help readers relate to and understand what was going on, allowing readers to put themselves in the interviewees’ shoes.
Where would you love to visit once we can travel again?
I used to live in Edinburgh, and Scotland remains one of my favourite destinations in the world. My university friends and I have enjoyed several trips to Scotland’s islands. It’s such a thrill to board a ferry at dawn and arrive on the island at sunrise and spend a long weekend exploring. We’ve enjoyed past adventures hiking the craggy terrain of Skye, exploring the tranquil beaches of Islay and marvelling at the ancient stone circle of Callanish on Lewis and Harris. A few years ago, we tried and failed to get to Arran — thwarted by cancelled ferries —so Arran is top of my wish list once it’s safe to attempt a return.