Interview with Annie Fitzsimmons, Editor at Large, National Geographic

Annie Fitzsimmons, Editor at Large, National Geographic | Slow Travel Story

Tell me about yourself? Personally and professionally

Annie Fitzsimmons, Editor at Large, National Geographic | Slow Travel Story
Photo: Annie Fitzsimmons

I have worked in the travel industry for 19 years. I’ve done many things throughout the years. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in journalism while the same time I did several part-time jobs as a tour guide. I used to be a full-time freelance writer where I came up with my own style of writing and content. Just before the blogging industry exploded in 2004, I had a meeting with Nancy Novogrod, then the Editor in Chief of Travel+Leisure. I pitched her my ‘own’ role for the Travel+Leisure, which was to write about hotels. In 2012, I met someone who works for National Geographic, and have been in the company ever since. One of my first achievement at National Geographic was l successfully launched the Urban Insider community.

I believed that to make it in this industry; you need to be more than an Editor. In addition to creating compelling content, you have to understand all aspects of the business, such as marketing, partnership, social media, and much more. Today, by being an editor only, you’ll see that the money is just isn’t there anymore.

As the director at large, what are three things people might not know about the company

On the outside, National Geographic is all about people, culture, and destination. But, on the inside, we have a lot of departments such as publications, TV channels, museums, and expeditions. Right now I’m working in the magazine department. The company has all these different aspects that prospective employees might change their mind of what type of work they want to do. Another thing is, I believe that everybody can create any job they want, regardless of what background they have.

What’s the most difficult part about being a travel editor?

Business is always changing. Sometimes this fast-paced growth can be overwhelming. For example, clients right now are starting to demand all-inclusive partnership packages but at the same low price. For example, one media package includes; social media, advertising spaces,  and digital marketing, combined. These demands are strenuous yet can be exciting at the same time. Nowadays, to have a career in the travel industry, you have to be very creative.

What are the most significant challenges, as a woman, holding a high powered position like you?

I think it’s hard to hire people that are not only capable but also passionate about building the brand. Also, when you finally found these people, there isn’t enough money in the world. Another difficult thing is keeping your life balance while always performs in your workplace.

How do you overcome these challenges?

Regarding the financial issue, you have to be creative to close the [financial] gap. Also, you need to decide which is the most important work that only you can do, and then try to delegate to others.

Regarding personal life, you have to ‘listen’ to your body. Checking in with yourself is very important. In my profession, I feel fortunate to be in the company of many talented people who are as passionate as me in travel, if not more. However, sometimes this industry can burn you out. It’s a 24/7 industry! Hence, it’s important to have a sense of genuine curiosity about the world. If you stop being curious, you might feel like trapped and eventually feel depressed.

What advice do you have for aspiring women travel writers trying to break in? It seems there are fewer paying publications these days and it’s harder to find work.

When you’re starting out it is essential to have a niche. At the time, my niche was the hotel industry. First, I focused on the big brands, and people were very interested in it. This niche led me to more opportunities. I think to get people to recognize you; it is crucial to differentiate yourself. Also, you should not work for free. Well, of course, there are times when you have to reduce your price or even do something for free for the sake of getting that first client. But, make sure you know the line. If you always downplayed your work, technically you are selling yourself short, and in the future, this will create a problem.

Any professional tourism book recommendation?

I’d much interested in reading books about business and life over tourism. By doing this, it helps me understand other industries better. I love to read! I tried to finish one book every week. Also, I like to read books that allow me to understand the meaning of human existence. One of my favorite books is The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe For Success and Satisfaction by Samantha Ettus. The author showed he how to banish guilt and start living with the ‘slices’ of life you love.


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