Losing Our Way

Why do we love our Complete National Geographic DVD collection (“Every issue since 1888“)? Because it graphically illustrates how far we’ve fallen.

1991: National Geographic publishes China’s Youth Wait for Tomorrow (July 1991), which included these photos:

2007: National Geographic establishes a publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China — a tough media market to crack given the tight oversight by the Communist Party. Why did this authoritarian regime open its doors to NGS? Certain words pop to mind — words like servile, subservient, sycophantic, and spineless — but none of them do justice to what happened soon after this publishing partnership was announced: Editor Chris Johns killed a story by award-winning writer Ha Jin that had previously been slated to appear in the May 2008 special issue on China. The title of Ha Jin’s censored story: Censorship in China.

We’re embarrassed and ashamed every time we have to tell that story. But we tell it repeatedly because it illuminates how NGM’s picture of the world has been badly distorted by the global ambitions of our Society’s senior executives, who are transforming National Geographic into International Geographic.

The downside: We literally lose sight of the values — human rights, democracy, freedom —  that bind our society, and once bound our Society, together.

The upside:  Insect eggs for everyone!

  • Friend

    I wish you’d quit knocking the insect eggs story. I thought those images were beautiful & very cool. Of course I have no opinion on the larger issue here.

    • I love the insect egg pix, which are beautiful. But do you think that’s enough to sustain the organization?

      • Friend

        Of course not. I was razzing a bit. Losing core values chasing dollars (futilely, probably) will not further sustainability.

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