Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Freebie' Dispute for Feature Firm

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Freebie' Dispute for Feature Firm

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'Freebie' Dispute For Feature Firm

THE THORNY ISSUE of travel "freebies" has sparked a dispute involving a West Virginia publicist, a Vermont inn and a Philadelphia syndicate.

The situation dates back to this past winter, when the Katalyst public relations firm of Charleston, W.V., mailed inn-related material to various media.

One recipient of the mailing was the National News Bureau, a Philadelphia-based company that distributes features about travel and other topics.

NNB contacted Katalyst, which arranged a complimentary Jan. 31-Feb. 2 stay at a Vermont inn for NNB publisher Harry Jay Katz and a guest. The guest turned out to be Katz's 12-year-old son, who reportedly lives with Katz's ex-wife in a town fairly close to the inn.

Katalyst owner Rebecca Kimmons said she arranged for the stay at the inn, located in southwestern Vermont, after being told Katz and NNB were working on a "Best of the Best" article.

"I expected a travel story on the inns of the region," recalled Kimmons, whose firm was representing the Independent Innkeepers' Association. "I'm not saying they had to write a positive story, but I expected them to meet their obligations in an honorable way"

Kimmons, an associate member of the Society of American Travel Writers, said newspaper articles are usually published fairly quickly. So when no story appeared for several weeks, the Katalyst owner phoned NNB "four or five" times to discuss the matter. "They never called back," she said. Kimmons then wrote Katz a March 24 letter asking him to either send her a copy of the story or pay the inn $428 for the two-day stay.

Kimmons--who noted that the innkeepers "went well out of their way to make sure Mr. Katz had a good experience"--said NNB did not comply with either request as of Sept. 17, when she was interviewed by E&P. this way before. I trusted these people," said the publicist, adding that she now does more screening before providing free travel arrangements. …

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