By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group
Kiratiana Freelon is a travel blogger who is carving out her own path with her writing. I “met” her via Twitter, where there’s a very active community of black travel bloggers and tweeters.
Right before graduating from Harvard in 2002, Freelon landed a $20,000 fellowship around the world. She decided to create a series of travel guides to destinations in the African Diaspora—destinations like West Africa, Paris, London, Brazil, and the Caribbean. She took the $20,000 trip around the world in 2002 and 2003.
On April 6, 2010, Freelon received the first physical copy of her first travel guidebook: Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris. In conjunction with the book, she decided to start a travel blog: Kiratiana Travels: Let a Black Girl Show You the World. Her goal? To inspire people to travel and live abroad. She is also the editor of BlackAtlas.com, American Airlines’ website that offers travel insights from an African-American perspective. Freelon spoke to NABJDigital on how she got started and advice for those who want to do the same.
NABJDigital: What is your journalism/writing background?
Kiratiana Freelon: I’ve been writing since forever, but the only “real” journalism job I had was for 1.5 years at a local community newspaper in Chicago, the Hyde Park Herald. Coming out of high school, I just knew I was going to be a broadcast journalist. I had completed the Northwestern Journalism High School Institute and I was headed to Harvard for college. There, I wrote for the Harvard Crimson and wrote and edited a book called The Black Guide to Life at Harvard.
ND: How did you begin blogging?
KF: I first heard of this idea of blogging in 2002 when I was graduating from college. I only knew of one person who had a blog. So when I moved to Paris, I KNEW that I wanted to share my experiences with people by blogging. Back in the day when I traveled around the world, I would just do email updates. So I started a blog called Black Girl in Paris, which I updated while I was living in Paris from 2005 to 2006.
ND: How did you come up with the Black Girl In Paris blog?
KF: Well there was already a book called Black Girl in Paris. The title just FIT me. I was literally a Black Girl in Paris and I was there to discover the black culture of Paris.
ND: How did you end up writing the Black Atlas blog for American Airlines?
KF: The opportunity became open at the perfect time for me. I had just published my book, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris. I was also establishing myself through social media by tweeting, blogging and attending conferences like SXSW and Blogging While Brown. When the position opened as editor, I had the right background for the job and a friend thought it would be a perfect fit. It’s an interesting position in which I get to write, interact with bloggers and manage social media.
ND: What advice would you give to others who might want to begin blogging?
KF: The first advice is to decide what you want to blog about. If you have passion for a subject material, then start stalking ALL the blogs on that specific subject. When I knew I wanted to be a travel blogger, I started reading TONS of travel blogs. Look to see how they are designed and what types of widgets they have.
This is going to come off as rather snobbish but DO NOT use Blogspot to begin blogging. Yes, Blogspot is an easy platform to just start blogging, but it usually doesn’t project a professional image. It’s pretty easy to find a nice clean WordPress blogging theme. Check out freshworkshops.com for some great online tutorials on installing WordPress yourself.
Additionally, blogging is all about community. Find the people in your niche and SUPPORT them and they will start supporting you. It can be as simple as retweeting them, or profiling them.