Insider.com and businessinsider.com stories about Amtrak trips

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TrackWalker

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I challenge someone here to contact AARP and tell them you would like to write an Amtrak trip review. I’m sure they have a larger reader base than Insider.

Hell, they might even pay for the trip!

Any takers?
 

CraigInNC

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No one can realistically disagree that Amtrak can improve the housekeeping aspects of the train especially on the LD ones that get heavy usage. With that being said, I have long since come to believe that there is a negative bias with a large percentage of the general public regarding train travel. At least with regards to long distance travel. Some people think the experience has to be akin to riding the Orient Express in order for it to be considered a worthy alternative to the gold standard of airline travel. As if coach on Spirit is the height of elegance. The longest I have ever ridden in Coach on a LD train was from Charlotte to Washington about 9 hours or so in the daytime.
 

neroden

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When did the Insider become "All Amtrak trip reports all the time"? I realize that the cost of such stories is minimal, so it is cheaper than buying real reporitng, but is there really a rapt reading public out there for these stories?
I'm not complaining -- it's probably more publicity for Amtrak than at any other news outlet on the planet
 

neroden

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I’ve been curious about this, too, so I looked up the author requirements for Business Insider.

They say they do not accept promotional or sponsored content, so my first theory, that Amtrak might have bought a “package” of articles for peanuts as cheap advertising, goes out the window.

They actually use articles pitched by writers, and they have two types of writers: contributors (who are not paid) and freelancers (who are paid). Not quite sure what a contributor is and why they’re not paid—maybe they work for the site already and get a salary?

Like flitcraft, I was more interested in why there are all these Amtrak articles. Since they aren’t being sponsored by Amtrak, my second guess is that some young person just happened to be on an Amtrak trip and decided to write the equivalent of a “What I did on my summer vacation” article and see if they could get it published.

Then, when it showed up on Business Insider, every other young person who saw it said to themselves, “Hey, I can do this!” and a flood of Amtrak articles started coming to Business Insider.

Just a theory—but having spent most of my working life in the editing world (although not for a magazine or newspaper), I enjoy trying to figure out how and why something gets published.
I think your analysis is very likely. I for one welcome the flood of Amtrak-promoting articles.
 

me_little_me

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I never understood why the flex dining menu can't include pre packaged sandwiches and subs. If you're riding for more than two days and flex is the only option,a cold sub would be most welcome. In Chicago and Philly I make sure to go to Jersey Mikes. Better than anything flex.
It's not that a cold sub would be more welcome. It's that more variety would. And - some healthy options. That's the advantage of salads and other fresh food. They generally don't get packaged to last for months so they don't contain all the artificial ingredients.
 

Skylark

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The no table thing is rough, and I didn't realize not all coach seats had one so that's good to know.

There do need to be better food options for coach. I know some is Covid related. If I had a trip more than 12 hours and I couldn't afford a roomette I'd fly at that point. I've found my tolerance level to be 12 hours or less for coach, 1 night for roomette, more than 1 night, bedroom. Everyone has to find their own.

Delays do cause some anxiety especially if you're getting in really late already. I've learned you need A LOT of padding on the schedule. Unfortunately, destinations aren't always accommodating of that.
 

neroden

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I wonder how these writing assignments are given out.

Does the writer propose the trip and story? Or does the editor just throw slips of paper in a hat and whatever gets pulled out is yours?

I would be really annoyed if I got assigned a story on LD coach when that other kid got to ride in a roomette and dance in a bedroom.😁

I do love how she calls the shaky tray table a desk. Makes it sound a bit more elegant.

I’m sorry—I’m being awfully silly. But I’ve gotten to the point with these articles that I’m reading them almost like humorous short stories and keep seeing the funny side.

However, there are a few good ones that do more than just scratch the surface. I agree that the New York to Austin one above is better quality than some of the others.
Insider is mostly blind pitches by people trying to break into journalism. So it's basically a spate of freelancers.
 

Cal

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For example, Jeb Brooks who occasionally does trip reports on trains understood this point and he's into aviation where this terminology wouldn't directly carry over.
Jeb Brooks releases pretty high-quality and well-narrated content, he did his research beforehand.
 

Cal

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As if coach on Spirit is the height of elegance.
Spirit, in many cases, is cheaper than Amtrak, even in coach, and takes much less time. Can't blame people for taking a cheaper and way faster option, but I welcome everyone who decides to take the train.
 

SarahZ

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The no table thing is rough, and I didn't realize not all coach seats had one so that's good to know.
The lack of a tray table in the front surprised me on a LD trip once, and it wasn't my first trip. Not everyone researches and scrutinizes every little car diagram they can find.

I don't know why some people think a person writing an opinion article on a train trip needs to be an absolute expert on All Things Amtrak. I'm sure the readers appreciated knowing that bit about the lack of a tray table in the front.
 
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MARC Rider

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The no table thing is rough, and I didn't realize not all coach seats had one so that's good to know.
Oh, yeah. My wife and I rode the Capitol Limited in 1989 when it was still single-level. When we left Chicago, we were assigned to the front row of an Amfleet 2 coach, and there was no tray table. That, plus the rowdy crowd in our coach, caused us to spend the whole night in the dome car, which was nice and dark and quiet, even if the seats didn't recline.

The airlines have ways of installing tray tables on bulkhead seats, I don't know why Amtrak doesn't.
 

Willbridge

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The lack of a tray table in the front surprised me on a LD trip once, and it wasn't my first trip. Not everyone researches and scrutinizes every little car diagram they can find.

I don't know why some people think a person writing an opinion article on a train trip needs to be an absolute expert on All Things Amtrak. I'm sure the readers appreciated knowing that bit about the lack of a tray table in the front.
I've been annoyed several times by the lack of a table in the front row of a coach, especially when expected to eat at my seat. Luckily some segments I had both seats to myself so I could kind of work sideways. I seem to remember eating a tasty meal and setting my champagne glass down on a fold-out table in a NWA 727 between Edmonton and Minneapolis. Now there would likely be an extra row of seats in that space but the point is that a fold-out table on the front bulkhead is not a very radical innovation.
 

Oreius

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I kind of agree with this lady in some respects. In terms of the Coach bathrooms, they are often not very clean. However, I don’t think it’s the Staff’s fault, but rather there some people who are slobs. I rode #91 back in September from Philadelphia to Kissimmee. The Coach bathrooms were cleaned during our layover in DC. Just five minutes after pulling out of Union Station, the Conductor comes over the intercom. The bathrooms in one of the (only 2) coaches was trashed!! He sounded very upset—and I don’t blame him. He said, “Look. We are all adults. I find it appalling the bathroom was trashed just 5 minutes after we left DC. Please do yourselves a favor and keep the rest room neat for your fellow passengers.”

18 hours in Coach is a long time—the longest I’ve been in Coach was 12 hours on the Adirondack. I had a seat buddy the whole time. However, the seats on Amtrak trains are wider than those in Economy Class on a plane. But, then again, not everyone respects each other’s space.

Unfortunately, the lady is right in that Coach pax do not have access to the Diner (Sleeper Lounge). Pre-Covid, Coach pax could dine in the diner first-come. The food in the Lounge is typically high-sodium and carb fare. However, when I ride the Keystones, there is no food service. So, I always bring my own food aboard—even when traveling in the sleepers.

Train travel is just like another form of travel—you get what you pay for. Sleepers are very expensive—though you can snag discounts if you book early. I ride Amtrak for the experience—I don’t care about the time it takes. This lady was probably on a timeline and on a budget and so I can see why she was frustrated. But, it’s what you have to expect unfortunately.
 

PaTrainFan

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I kind of agree with this lady in some respects. In terms of the Coach bathrooms, they are often not very clean. However, I don’t think it’s the Staff’s fault, but rather there some people who are slobs.
Such is the case with most public bathrooms that are rarely cleaned.
 

MARC Rider

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I kind of agree with this lady in some respects. In terms of the Coach bathrooms, they are often not very clean. However, I don’t think it’s the Staff’s fault, but rather there some people who are slobs. I rode #91 back in September from Philadelphia to Kissimmee. The Coach bathrooms were cleaned during our layover in DC. Just five minutes after pulling out of Union Station, the Conductor comes over the intercom. The bathrooms in one of the (only 2) coaches was trashed!! He sounded very upset—and I don’t blame him. He said, “Look. We are all adults. I find it appalling the bathroom was trashed just 5 minutes after we left DC. Please do yourselves a favor and keep the rest room neat for your fellow passengers.”
I rode coach on the Silver Star back in 2012 - 20 hours between Baltimore and Tampa. I was particularly struck by how clean the restrooms were the entire trip. I'm not sure how they did it, but there was a checklist on the back of the restroom door with the time and date of each cleaning, and the signature of the person who either cleaned it or verified that it was clean. The cleanings appeared to be fairly regular, like every couple of hours. Of course, 3 years later, when I rode the Silver Meteor, this system appeared to be gone, and the coach restrooms were pretty nasty. Last June I rode the Capitol Limited in coach between Pittsburgh and Washington, and the restrooms weren't too bad, but then, the train wasn't that full, either. The restrooms in the Northeast Regionals are also pretty decent, and they run with a lot of passengers. I'm not sure if they get cleaned along the way.
 

Bob Dylan

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I rode coach on the Silver Star back in 2012 - 20 hours between Baltimore and Tampa. I was particularly struck by how clean the restrooms were the entire trip. I'm not sure how they did it, but there was a checklist on the back of the restroom door with the time and date of each cleaning, and the signature of the person who either cleaned it or verified that it was clean. The cleanings appeared to be fairly regular, like every couple of hours. Of course, 3 years later, when I rode the Silver Meteor, this system appeared to be gone, and the coach restrooms were pretty nasty. Last June I rode the Capitol Limited in coach between Pittsburgh and Washington, and the restrooms weren't too bad, but then, the train wasn't that full, either. The restrooms in the Northeast Regionals are also pretty decent, and they run with a lot of passengers. I'm not sure if they get cleaned along the way.
Like most things Amtrak, YMMV!
 

neroden

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I rode coach on the Silver Star back in 2012 - 20 hours between Baltimore and Tampa. I was particularly struck by how clean the restrooms were the entire trip. I'm not sure how they did it, but there was a checklist on the back of the restroom door with the time and date of each cleaning, and the signature of the person who either cleaned it or verified that it was clean. The cleanings appeared to be fairly regular, like every couple of hours. Of course, 3 years later, when I rode the Silver Meteor, this system appeared to be gone, and the coach restrooms were pretty nasty. Last June I rode the Capitol Limited in coach between Pittsburgh and Washington, and the restrooms weren't too bad, but then, the train wasn't that full, either. The restrooms in the Northeast Regionals are also pretty decent, and they run with a lot of passengers. I'm not sure if they get cleaned along the way.
The system you experienced on the Silver Star is the official system, and I think the Silver Meteor attendant was just slacking.
 

neroden

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I'm kind of sad that this is what modern reporting has devolved into.
The problem is that the funding streams aren't correct, so the incentives are wrong. What we need are 501(c)(3) not-for-profits and other charities devoted to journalism -- like the Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian (UK). A bunch of those and we'd get better journalism.

Along similar lines, the Tampa Bay Times is owned by the Poynter Institute and, since 2016, the Philadelphia Inquirer is owned by the Lenfest Institute, both charities devoted to promoting journalism.

There's some recent progress in this regard: the Salt Lake Tribune was recently reorganized as a charity. (Maybe I will donate to them!)


If a newspaper wants to endorse candidates they'd have to be a 501(c)(4) in the US, but they're very similar. The point is to have the newspaper owned by an organization with an endowment, donations from the public, and an explicit chartered mission of promoting journalism, rather than of "making profits".

And more news on this topic:

And I'm finding more information on not-for-profit news outlets at that site. This one is doing massive, indepth research articles on topics most of us don't know much about:

And if you happen to be running a news outlet and want to convert:
 
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