What to do when a thousand points of light go out

points of light

It wasn’t a good week for journalism.

BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, and Gannett unceremoniously cut about 1,000 media jobs. One of them was my editor at USA Today.

The mass layoffs are enough to make you wonder: What happens when the watchdogs, many of whom are performing an important job of keeping you safe from predatory businesses, are euthanized?

What happens when a thousand points of light go out, as they did last week?

I’m still here – for now

I’m still advocating and writing, for now. The Huffington Post cut me a year ago and I jumped over to Forbes. USA Today is still publishing my weekly column, although it has reduced my rate several times in the last two years. But I have to prepare for the likelihood that at some point, everything will end.

Today I heard from a reader that the Chicago Tribune, which almost always carries the Travel Troubleshooter in its Sunday travel editions, skipped my column. In fact, there is no standalone travel section anymore — it’s been rolled into a “life” section.

It sure feels bleak.

What’s going to happen next?

I can’t complain. I’ve been a journalist for almost three decades, and I’ve loved every minute of it. But the future looks very different. The old business models no longer work.

I won’t be able to continue the advocacy without you.

Twice a year, in the spring and fall, we hold a fundraiser to give readers like you an opportunity to pitch in to help fund the advocacy work. Individual supporters are our biggest source of funds. But you can make a tax-deductible donation to our advocacy site any time.

Here’s how.

As you can see, there are already a lot of supporters who have offered to help in 2019. They see what’s happening around us — a thousand points of light being extinguished in a single week — and they want to do something. I hope you will, too.

On a personal note

This has been a difficult week. In addition to recovering from eye surgery, I managed to catch some kind of stomach virus. So please pardon any typos (I can’t see the screen) or lapses in logic! On the upside, I’ve been enjoying the summer-like weather in Los Angeles, where I’m camped for the next few weeks.

I heard from the San Francisco Chronicle that they plan to publish the Troubleshooter this week. If you see it in your Sunday paper, please consider letting the Chronicle know how much you appreciate the column. Who knows, they might continue running the feature weekly again? If you’re based in Chicago, it would mean a lot if you could let them know you miss the Troubleshooter this week.

I am optimistic. I think that with your help, we’ll be able to continue the important advocacy work and assist more travelers and consumers every day.

This week’s columns

She tried to cancel her Priceline hotel cancellation. Then Priceline kept her money.
Malka Mandel cancels her Priceline hotel reservation and then tries to un-cancel it after losing her credit card dispute. Is there any way to restore her hotel reservation?

This is the secret to getting a hotel room upgrade
When it comes to a hotel room upgrade, ask and you shall receive. That’s right, a polite request can sometimes do the trick, which surprises frequent guests like Allan Jordan. It might surprise you, too.

His hotel refund was approved. So why did he do this?
Phil Huffman says he had a hotel refund coming his way for his stay at the Holiday Inn San Antonio-Downtown on Market Square. It just wasn’t coming fast enough. You’ll never believe what he did next. Then again, if you’re a longtime reader, maybe you will believe it.

Why vacation rental management companies are worth it
If you think vacation rental management companies aren’t worth using, then I have a story for you. Two, actually.

Despite promises, she still has no Frontier Airlines flight reimbursement
When Frontier Airlines cancels Audra Singer’s flight to Cleveland, it offers to pay for her new ticket to her destination. Two months have gone by. Where’s her money?

Have a great week!

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Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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