By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group
National Association of Black Journalists Treasurer Greg Lee recently posted a guide to our upcoming annual conference in San Diego that was written by Greg Gross. As I read the great guide, I saw that Gross, a journalist for more than 30 years at the San Diego Union-Tribune, had a blog that instantly appealed to me: I’m Black & I Travel.
Gross was a public safety specialist at the Union-Tribune before being laid off last May. In that job, he says, he never had the chance to write about travel, his true passion. So he started the blog on June 12. He recalls being bitten by the travel bug when he took the Sunset Limited train from New Orleans to Oakland, Calif., as a child.
“I always wanted to write about travel,” says Gross. “Several years earlier, I started a personal web site with friends of mine where we would travel to different places to watch minor league baseball.” Places he visited included Tijuana, Mexicali and Hermosillo, he adds. “We also attended the Caribbean World Series, which is rotated between Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela,” says Gross. He didn’t ever make it to Venezuela.
Gross firmly believes that travel opens your eyes and broadens your mind. “If the only experience you have is a narrow circle of life, there’s a lot you miss out on. One thing you learn when you travel, is that although you love your country very much, the United States is not be-all, end-all of planet Earth,” he states. “The U.S. is not the only place where people have ideas, imagination, passion, dreams and a soul. By traveling, you learn that humanity is an incredible thing and is very diverse.”
Travel also makes you a better student of history, Gross observes. “When visit places around the world, a lot of what you learn comes alive when you’re there,” he explains. “You also find out that a lot that you learned in school may not be exactly accurate.”
Gross cites a visit to Germany with his wife to see concentration camps as an example. “We found out that although there were camps all over Germany, the death camps were mostly in Poland,” he said. “Looking at a map, I found a camp right outside Berlin called Sachsenhausen. I had never heard of it.”
Sachsenhausen was not just a concentration camp. It was the first purpose-built camp, said Gross, noting that Heinrich Himmler had his offices there. “Camp guards were trained there and the camp served as the prototype for all the others built,” he points out. “We went there and honest to God, it was like walking in the presence of evil.”
The I’m Black & I Travel blog seems to have stuck a cord with a lot of people beyond our own, Gross observes. “The main point of the blog is to show you don’t have to be afraid to travel. Our people will give you all kinds of rationale on why not to travel,” he says, including fear of a language barrier, getting ripped off, terrorism and a fear of the unknown, the foreign and the unfamiliar.
Currently, Gross tries to post on the blog at least twice a week. He gets his ideas for posts from many different areas. “Some are things from memory. Some are things I come across from reading on the web or magazines or newspapers,” he says. “I also get inspiration by talking to people.”
So far, the blog doesn’t have advertising, says Gross “That’s the next challenge for me. My first goal was to create the blog. My second goal was to build it up as a credible web site. Now it’s time to monetize the blog,” he says.
Gross recently took the first step toward that goal by moving from WordPress to a hosted web site. “WordPress is free, but you can’t put ads on your blog,” he says. He also changed the blog’s domain name to something that more reflects what blog is.
At this point, Gross is looking for almost anybody and everybody for advertising. “I spent 41 years in mainstream journalism and I was part of the strict church/state divide, so I’ve learned nothing on how to solicit advertising,” he admits.
I hope NABJDigital readers will put this blog on your RSS feed. And after our chat, I am now the latest contributor to the I’m Black & I Travel blog. You can see my first post, here. We’ll contact Gross from time to time to follow his progress in turning the blog into a paid enterprise.