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Atlas Obscura, a Journey Website Centered on the Bizarre and Obscure, Digs Deeper


When the pandemic hit final spring, Atlas Obscura had simply obtained a $20 million funding from a bunch of buyers led by Airbnb. Atlas Obscura, on the time, was centered on constructing the “expertise” facet of its enterprise — guided excursions and courses — which it anticipated to snap into the large house rental platform. (The New York Occasions can also be an investor in Atlas Obscura.) However Airbnb gave up on the initiative because it scrambled to climate the disaster. And like the remainder of journey media, Atlas Obscura has spent a yr largely catering to the fantasies of homebound vacationers. That led, the corporate says, to document site visitors and promoting income, in addition to a brand new enterprise in on-line courses.

Now, the journey media and the journey business are bracing — and hoping — for a surge of tourism. Although few within the journey media have taken on re-editing of their product like Atlas Obscura, they’re additionally making an attempt to adapt to a modified political scenario, in search of to search out nonwhite writers who dwell within the locations they write about, or to have extra numerous American writers inform the tales of locations. Jacqueline Gifford, the editor in chief of Journey and Leisure, mentioned the journey media was making an attempt to ask itself, “Who will get to inform journey tales, why they’re telling them, and what’s the best way we might be extra consultant of this nation, of the world we’re dwelling in right now?”

However there are additionally built-in limits to how a lot you possibly can revolutionize journey writing, mentioned Rafat Ali, the founding father of the journey enterprise web site Skift.

“It’s all the time going to be outsiders trying in,” he mentioned.

The problem for editors and writers throughout media is how you can make journalism inclusive in addition to riveting and provocative, fairly than only a company media train in box-checking. (One high newspaper editor described that style to me final week as “D.E.I. dutiful,” referring to range, fairness and inclusion initiatives.)

It shouldn’t be that onerous. Sophisticated, stunning tales are sometimes the most effective ones, as illustrated by the excellent “Reckoning With a Reckoning” concern that Adrienne Inexperienced, the options editor at New York journal, put collectively final week. It sought, because the journal’s editor in chief, David Haskell, wrote in an electronic mail, “to make clear stakes and in addition complicate them, to inform morality tales however keep away from straightforward morals.”

Atlas Obscura, which additionally publishes magaziney options just like the disturbing story of how a Black lady’s stays wound up on show at a Philadelphia museum and the key queer historical past of Colonial Williamsburg, is one other good instance of how a writer can meet the second by deepening its content material with an inquiry into, specifically, the violence People typically select to overlook.

Certainly, Mr. Patel advised me he’s undecided “decolonizing” was the precise phrase for the undertaking. “Decolonization suggests removing, and that’s not what we’re doing,” he mentioned Wednesday morning, as we started our tour of surprising New York websites on the sting of the Bushwick part of Brooklyn. “Including this sort of perspective to journey and journey writing makes it much less boring.”



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