After reading Chris Johns’ latest Editor’s Note, you have to admire the courage of photographer Pascal Maitre, who traveled to Somalia five times to complete his photo coverage for Shattered Somalia. “Without a stable government since 1991, the country is arguably the scene of Africaâ€™s worst humanitarian crisis,” Chris tells us. “Itâ€™s one of the deadliest places a journalist can be…. To bear witness to such suffering requires the highest measure of compassion and conviction.”
We agree, and salute Pascal for his efforts. We just hope that Chris Johns, a former field photographer who rarely ventures into the field anymore, can show some courage too by documenting another meltdown in progressâ€”the membership of the National Geographic Society.
No, we’re not suggesting an equivalence: our Society is obviously not Somalia; the death of a magazine is of zero consequence when compared to the death of a nation. But given the negative trends at National Geographic (once ten million members strong; now fewer than five million, and heading rapidly south of four million), and given NGS’s lack of any sustainable business model for a digital worldâ€”well, we worry the tectonic shifts in media could easily shatter our own Society.
So we implore you, Chris: Please show the same guts and grit as Pascal Maitre did, and begin to publicly address the serious problems National Geographic is facing. Stop publicly ignoring the meltdown around you. And start to “bear witness” in your Editor’s Note to the challenges our Society now confronts. If you do, then we can begin to better understand these problems, and discuss themâ€”and then start solving them… together.