Why you’re the journalist of the year

The American Society of Travel Agents yesterday named me its journalist of the year. I still can’t believe it. It feels like it’s happening to someone else.

Actually, it is.

I share this honor with you, my readers, supporters, and advocates both past and present. We’ve come together to help consumers. This is our award.

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What do I mean? Well, just scroll back to some of today’s stories.

Andrew Der, our resident good-news columnist, penned the 10 a.m. post. It was produced by Jennifer Finger, one of our directors. An entire editing team headed by Andy Smith helped fine-tune Andrew’s draft.

And where would I be without my editors for the 9 a.m. story on tour operator profits? Not nearly as articulate as I was then (and hopefully am now).

I also have Michelle Bell to thank for managing the editorial process, an incredible research team headed by Bill Chilton, Dwayne Coward triaging the incoming cases, Barry Graham and K.J. Hastings in the forums, Josh Floyd and Will Leeper moderating the blog comments, Teri Bergin producing the daily newsletter, and many, many more people — too many to thank individually.

I’ve always said that this is a real team effort. It’s not about one individual here. And if it is, that individual is you, the consumer, not the guy with his name on the page.

We don’t work for fame and fortune. We do this for you.

My award policy is pretty straightforward:

I don’t submit my work for awards or fellowships. Helping consumers is enough reward for me.

Parenthetically, when’s the last time a consumer advocate won any kind of award? This isn’t the kind of journalism that wins anything — except the scorn of advertisers. I’m fine with that.

I’m eating my words today.

My friends at ASTA said some very nice things about me — about us. Here’s the full press release:

ASTA Names Christopher Elliott Journalist of the Year
Author and Nationally Syndicated Consumer Advocate Receives Coveted Award for Travel Advocacy

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has named Christopher Elliott its journalist of the year in recognition of his advocacy work on behalf of travelers and the travel agency community.

Elliott is an author, consumer advocate and nationally syndicated columnist whose work appears in Money magazine, The Washington Post and USA Today.

“Christopher Elliott has always put consumers first with his steadfast advocacy, and regularly champions the valuable role travel agents play in today’s travel marketplace,” said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby. “ASTA’s emphasis on consumer awareness and support for travel agency clients made this year’s Journalist of the Year an easy decision.”

It’s the first time in the Journalist of the Year award has gone to a consumer advocate. Kerby says the honor is long overdue, noting that as travel agents sharpen their focus on clients, ASTA must recognize those who advocate for travelers alongside them.

“Elliott has a distinguished record of protecting consumers,” he adds. “At the same time, he never misses an opportunity to promote the value of working with a qualified travel agent. For Chris, agents are fellow consumer advocates, and that comes through in his stories.”

Elliott is the reader advocate for Money magazine, where he writes a weekly column called “Problem Solved.” He also pens a weekly column called “The Navigator” for The Washington Post’s Sunday Travel section and writes the “On Travel” column for USA Today. In addition, Elliott’s “Travel Troubleshooter” is nationally syndicated through King Features Syndicate.

Elliott is also the co-founder of Travelers United, a Washington nonprofit group that advocates for travelers. He publishes a daily blog at Elliott.org that helps thousands of travelers with often intractable travel problems.

ASTA’s Journalist of the Year award is chosen by the ASTA staff in consultation with its 26-member Chapter Presidents Council.

ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally based members, it is the leading global advocate for travel agents, the travel industry and the traveling public. ASTA’s history of travel industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information, visit ASTA.org.

I’m grateful to all my fellow advocates for this unexpected honor. Many thanks to my friends in the travel agency community for recognizing the advocacy that we do here every day.