Monday, September 05, 2005

North American Travel Journalists Association NATJA


The Original Mickey Mouse

A bit of discussion surfaced a few months ago from members of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) about the origins and ownership of the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). Somebody rather innocently inquired as to the ownership of the organization, only to find that barriers and more questions were raised. I've blogged about this before, so do a search with the above Google engine and read all about it.

Today, somebody sent me details about NATJA which seem only appropriate to pass along to other readers of this blog. Hopefully, the folks at NATJA will contact me with any correction as I can't guarantee accuracy with the notes below.

I don't belong to NATJA but the group has received both positive and negative reports over the last few years. They send me an invitation to their annual convention, which seems to be subsidized but certainly not free, and also an invitation to their annual travel writers contest, which offers many decent prizes such as hotel rooms and whatever but generally lack airfare to the destination. I could post about that one in detail.

So here's some background on NATJA:

What is NATJA

NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association) is a fictitious business name for Apollo Interactive LLC. of Culver City California 90232. According to the FBN filed with LA County the type of business is listed as Professional Association, Marketing and Promotions. Apollo Interactive LLC is a California Limited Liability Corporation

According to the Articles of Incorporation filed with the California Secretary of State the owners are David Bohline, Justin Woo and Richard Balue. The type of business is listed as Marketing along with Internet Services and Web Site Design.

The same three people, Bohline, Woo and Balue, are listed as the the owners of Apollo Interactive Inc, a privately held California corporation on the company website. They are all graduates of USC and members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and reportedly founded the company in 1995 first working from their chapter house at USC. Apollo Interactive Inc. lists its services as Internet Advertising, Web Development and E-Business Integration

Apollo Interactive's clients include retail, manufacturing and finance clients like Jack in the Box, Reliant Energy and WB Televison. All of their listed travel industry clients are casinos, including:

Luxor Las Vegas
Cache Creek Casino
Circus Circus, Las Vegas and Reno
Excalibur Resort and Casino
Gold Strike Hotel and Casino
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
Monte Carlo Casino
Motor Cisty Casino, Detroit
Pala Casino
Silver Legacy Resort and Casino

Apollo Interactive inc. is credited as the web designer for the NATJA website and is listed as its domain owner.

The Executive Director of NATJA is Elizabeth Beshear, formerly Elizabeth Barnes. Elizabeth is the wife of Matt Beshear Matt is the president of Apollo Interactive Inc. He is also a USC graduate and member of the TKE fraternity along with Bohline, Woo and Balue.

If you want to contact the owners, they can be reached at:

bohline@apollointeractive.com
balue@apollointeractive.com
woo@apollointeractive.com

NATJA is not organized as a 501(c)(6) business trade association under Federal tax code.

According to the California Law Revision Commission "A trade association is generally a membership organization of persons engaging in a similar or related line of commerce, organized to promote and improve business conditions in that line of commerce and not to engage in a regular business for profit, and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any member.

*****************************

Additional Data:

Apollo Interactive LLC.
8556 Hayden Place,
Culver City California 90232

The Articles of Organization, file number 101998002167 filed 1/1/1998
Agent: David Bohline, 650 W. Mariposa Avenue, El Segundo CA 90245
Type of Business: Internet Services and Web Site Design

copy available

The Statement of Information Renewal number 199800210167 filed 12/3/2001 lists
Address: 531 Main Street #902, El Segundo CA 90245
Records kept at: 8556 Hayden Place, Culver City CA 90232
Type of Business: Marketing
Manager and Agent: David Bohline
David Bohline, 443 Loma Vista Street, El Segundo CA 90245
Justin Woo, 4243 Mary Ellen Avenue, Apt 12, Studio City CA 91604
Richard Balue, 642 8th Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

copy available

Apollo InteractiveOwner/Founders:
Justin Woo, Chief Executive Officer
David Bohline, Chief Operating Officer
Richard Balue, Chief Technology Officer

contact info:
bohline@apollointeractive.com
balue@apollointeractive.com
woo@apollointeractive.com

References:

LOS ANGELES COUNTY REGISTRAR

http://lavote.net/fbn/Default.cfm enter search "north american travel journalists"

Fictitious Business Name Statement document 2248832 obtained from
Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk
Business Filings and Registration Section, Room 2001
12400 Imperial Highway
Norwalk, CA 90650

CALIFORNIA SECRETARY OF STATE

http://kepler.ss.ca.gov/corpdata/ShowLpllcAllList?
QueryLpllcNumber=199800210167

The Articles of Organization, file number 101998002167 filed 1/1/1998
obtained from California Secretary of State

The Statement of Information Renewal number 199800210167 filed 12/3/2001
obtained from California Secretary of State

http://tinyurl.com/e3at2

APOLLO INTERACTIVE INC.

http://www.apollointeractive.com/aboutus/aboutus.php
http://www.apollointeractive.com/services/services.php
http://www.apollointeractive.com/clients/clients.php
http://www.apollointeractive.com/clients/industry.php

TKE The Magazine of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, Fall 2004

http://tinyurl.com/b24oh
http://www.tkeusc.org/alumni/aug2000.php
http://www.tkeusc.org/alumni/index.php

OWNERS

http://www.google.com/search?q=+bohline+site:
apollointeractive.com
http://www.google.com/search?q=+woo+site:
apollointeractive.com
http://www.google.com/search?q=+bohline+site:
apollointeractive.com

NATJA

http://natja.org
http://www.dnsstuff.com/tools/whois.ch?ip=natja.org&server=whois.publicinterestregistry.
net&email=on
http://alexa.com/data/details/?url=natja.org

ELIZABETH BESHEAR

elizabeth@natja.org
http://www.natja.org/member/elizabethbarnes
http://www.thebeshears.com/
http://www.travelworldmagazine.com/photography/
articles.php?MemberID=343

MATT BESHEAR

beshear@apollointeractive.com
http://www.thebeshears.com/
http://www.thebeshears.com/aboutus.html
http://www.natja.org/member/matthewjbeshear
http://www.travelworldmagazine.com/photography/
articles.php?MemberID=421

DAVID BOHLINE

http://www.college-prep.org/alumni/paw/fall04/fall04.htm
http://www.zoominfo.com/PeopleSearch/PersonDetail.asp?PersonID=34850463&pc=

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

If a travelwriter considered "membership" in NATJA as a "credential" after reading this, I'd know that s/he was a poseur.

friskodude said...

I can't really make heads or tails about this group, and is it illegal or immoral to start a travel writers group to make a profit? Seems an all American idea to me, so I'm not sure why we should condemn this profit-intended organization. But everybody should be informed about the goals of the group, and the ownership, and the differences between NATJA and SATW. Different goals, different people, different legal structures.

writer said...

It seems like they provide professional development and marketing oportunities to travel writers, which is a good service. But that doesn't make it a travel journalists association.

friskodude said...

That's exactly my point, as it seems that NATJA does service to the travel writers community, but they have been less than forthright in talking about their legal structure, which seems just plain odd.

They are not breaking any laws, and really who cares if they are a profit organization? Does that make them somehow less holy than a non-profit such as SATW? I don't think so, but I also wish they would be less secretive.

Anonymous said...

This is clearly scandalous! What with NATJA providing professional development to travel writers and all. Thanks for this hard hitting journalistic expo on this clearly out-of-control organization.

But seriously, maybe we should focus on the challenges facing SATW? Maybe we should look in the mirror and see that we can learn a thing or two from NATJA? I attended their conference and was amazed at the spirit and enthusiasm -- something clearly lacking from the last SATW event I attended.

writer said...

Spirit and enthusiasm is fine but why do they say it is a travel writers association? Can anyone just set up a company and then all it a travel writers association. When the corporate owners speak do they do so on behalf of all travel writers? or some? or on behalf of their clients? or on their own behalf?

There's no accountability.

That's the problem.

Anonymous said...

Who cares! I am a NATJA member that has benefited greatly from this organization and will continue to be a part of it because I am a travel journalist and will do what it takes to be successful at it. I do not want sit here and read what others have to say especially when they are not even members!

Also what I find funny on all these posting boards are travel writers complaining about not having respect, not being paid enough, etc. but as soon as they are not given something for free it’s a scam in their eyes. Remember, don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house.

friskodude said...

I'm not sure about the inner workings of NATJA, but they certainly present a challenge to the formal structure of SATW, and probably offer some alternatives to prospective travel writers who cannot qualify for membership in SATW.

Basically, I think this is a healthy discussion and may provide some food-for-thought for future meetings of all travel writers organizations.

david sanger said...

Interesting conversation...no doubt people benefit from the PR contacts and networking of NATJA.

Real writers' professional associations can perform an essential function representing writers' interests in the public forum. They participate in copyright conversations with the Library of Congress, they advocate for fair contracts, they can offer legal support for travel writers.

They can do this because they are membership organizations and represent their members.

Granted there are issues with SATW but at least it is a membership organization with elected officers who have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to the members.

So too are the Author's Guild, ASJA, IFWTWA and others.

Durant Imboden said...

On the plus side, NATJA is strictly credentials-based, like ASJA and most other professional writers' organizations. SATW, in contrast, has a sponsor requirement and approval process that discourage potential applicants (or at least potential applicants who are leery of fraternal organizations and country clubs).

Don't get me wrong: I'm not endorsing NATJA, and I wouldn't dream of joining it myself--especially after reading Apollo Interactive's client list.

David Sanger said...

Yes, but Durant there's no guarantee it'd stay that way.

Any credential-based criteria for application is completely arbitrary. They don't have bylaws or elected officers so they can sell the service to anyone they want to whenever they want to.

There's no review by writers because writers have no legal input to the company. It is owned by just three people.

NATJA has summarily cancelled the "membership" of at least one person according to postings on travelwriters.com

Certainly their conferences might be good value for some aspiring writers and good places to network. The customer list has some well-known names.

But it would be more up-front to call it a professional development, networking and marketing company.

Anonymous said...

“Granted there are issues with SATW but at least it is a membership organization with elected officers who have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to the members.”

-And many leaders, as everyone knows, usually are in it for themselves with a responsibility for their needs!

“Any credential-based criteria for application is completely arbitrary.”

-Same for SATW and ‘sponsored’ memberships i.e. having connections. Trust me, I can get into SATW & IFWTWA just based on my friendships, not published worked.

“There's no review by writers because writers have no legal input to the company.”

-Yes the writers have input, they have the option to quit.

“But it would be more up-front to call it a professional development, networking and marketing company.”

Definition of Association (dicionary.com): An organized body of people who have an interest, activity, or purpose in common; a society. (Where does it say it has to be Non-Profit).

I just can’t believe people that post feel the need to berate the organization and those that belong to it when they are not even members.

Amanda Castleman said...

Anonymous: You'll "do what it takes to be successful", eh? Does that ruthless ambition leave room for ethics, a time-honored aspect of journalism?

Perhaps you missed this Christian Science Monitor article last week:

"While Americans ranked reporters close to the cellar (15th out of 20 professions) in the 2004 Gallup poll on professional honesty and ethics, the book-length Wilkins-Coleman study found that reporters actually exhibited higher moral reasoning in their on-the-job decisionmaking than most other professionals, ranking fourth in the list, close behind seminarians, physicians, and medical students."

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0829/p09s02-coop.html

NATJA dismissed me for questioning a policy (donating articles to MSNBC, a publication with healthy reprint rates).

Experience with non-profit associations - like the Society of Professional Journalists and the UK's National Union of Journalists - made me believe members could debate and challenge decisions. Sadly, this was not the case. I lost friends in the fallout too.

Ethics, at the end of the day, remain more important than cocktail chums, PR connections or cushy perks to me, however.

Is NATJA useful to some? Absolutely. Should it be considered a "professional association" by our industry? That remains to be proven.

Should some scandal ensue, the real victims won't be high-falutin' hacks like myself, but the tourism boards who cracked open their coffers.

Anonymous, unlike you, I'm happy to sign my name and stand behind my thoughts.

Best of luck to you,
Amanda Castleman

david sanger said...

To Anonymous who posted on 5:13pm

“Any credential-based criteria for application is completely arbitrary.”

What I mean is that the owners of the North American Travel Journalists Association, or their staff employees, could, if they wanted, change the criteria for signing up at any time. At present they ask for 10 clips or broadcast tapes from within the last 12-month period. Members of BATW, IFWTWA, MTWA, PWAC, SATW, and TMAC are pre-qualified for NATJA membership.

But this could change at any moment. That is the part that is arbitrary.


The writers have input, they have the option to quit.

Yes you can also quit aol.com or stop shopping at K-Mart but that doesn't mean you have any input into the governance of the corporation.

I just can’t believe people that post feel the need to berate the organization and those that belong to it when they are not even members.

I think you misunderstand. There's no berating the owners or people who sign up. The NATJA people are said to be very nice and the users feel they get good value for the money. I know a number of members who are top-notch travel journalists.

But as travel writers, all of us ought to ask a few questions when "the world's premier professional association of writers, photographers, and editors" is owned by three young internet enterpreneurs from Southern California.

As I said, perhaps they are very nice people and would care to respond.

Susan McKee said...

You don't "belong" to a for-profit, privately-held company -- even if it is providing services to you.

You are a client, a customer, a subscriber. And you attain (or lose) that status purely on company-defined terms.

In the case of NATJA, it's not possible to question the policies of the company because when you do, you are UNSUBSCRIBED.

In my case, my "membership" was cancelled in early June, and my "unused membership fee" was not refunded until late July -- when I complained.

There's nothing wrong with a company providing services to travel writers or other freelancers --look at WritersMarketPlace.com or TravelwriterMarketLetter or travelwriters.com -- all are unabashedly travel writer centric but none masquerades as "the world's premier professional association of writers, photographers and editors".

After the May conference, I asked who owned NATJA and who appointed the officer(s). In writing. Both the executive director and the president refused to answer me -- responding with invective, threats and -- finally, by cancelling my "membership".

I figured out that the company of which the executive director's husband was president probably owned NATJA, but it took another to pin that down with the proper legal documents.

Any writer (or tourism industry professional) willing to be affiliated with NATJA should do it knowing exactly whom they're dealing with.

And, as David Sanger said, it's three young internet entrepreneurs from Southern California.

Anonymous said...

Vetting?

The only person who sees and approves "applications" for NATJA is the executive director.

NATJA may "require" tearsheets, but -- heck, who knows? As long as the check clears, NATJA is happy!

There's no oversight by anyone.

david sanger said...

This is cross-posted from travelwriters.com

Durant - My concern is not with the services they provide or their networking and professional development value to their customers. As you say many writers have established marketing channels and on-line presentations and so won't need NATJA services.

But if a company presents itself as an association, then it will be seen as such by people who don't know otherwise.

Consider the current debate on new copyright legislation Bill C-60 pending in the Canadian Parliament.

Legitimate writers organizations have been discussing it and even meeting with government officials to assess the impact on writers

see Periodical Writers of Canada

and Writers Union of Canada

The problem I see is that NATJA could also (hypothetically) take a stand on this issue. Perhaps the owners might oppose the amendments which are designed to protect writers' rights in the digital environment.

People would think that this would be the voice of an established journalists association. But it is NOT. It is the voice of a marketing company which calls itself a journalists association.

In a case like this the writers who are customers would have no recourse or influence. Indeed, other, legitimate writers organizations would be in the position of having to explain the difference between their membership associations and this corporation.

This I think is the heart of the problem.

nyam isdur said...

I don't think that NATJA may "require" tearsheets...

I agree david sanger... "The problem I see is that NATJA could also (hypothetically) take a stand on this issue."