“Why endanger lives for ratings?”

FromJake Adelstein’s Sack is Bigger Than Your House”:

I go to bat for Jake Adelstein, man. I really do. In fact, I almost didn’t run this article because so many people, including direct “competitors” (whom I like and support, by the way), had run something similar, but this is important. For a lot of reasons.

Jake Adelstein

One thing you gotta say about Jake is that the dude’s got a pair on ’em. In his writing, in his life, and in his heart, Adelstein’s worked to address complicated issues, and he’s been a big enough man to admit when he was wrong. More importantly, he’s learned from his mistakes and tries to progress due to them. That’s not only good for journalism, but good for people in general.

Short result: he talks, and we listen. Read Tokyo Vice sometime; we recommend it for a reason.

National Geographic can step up and do the right thing here if they should so choose. Why endanger lives for ratings?

(If you’re just tuning in, here’s the backstory.)

  • Keb

    Alan, have you spoken with anyone from NGT about this? Have you checked any facts independently? If not, why do you assume these allegations are true?

    • Hi Keb, Thanks for your note. I don’t assume all these allegations are true. In fact, at the top of the initial post, I wrote: “If all this is true, then it requires a thorough explanation from our Society.” I’m simply reporting what I do know, and asking John Fahey — or someone else at NGS — to clarify the situation, and the sooner the better.

      Also, Mr. Adelstein seems like a credible person. Why else would NGT have hired him? And the internal NG documents seem to support his claims.

      Here’s the other challenge: The CEO of NGS refuses to speak to me, so I’ve assumed NG staffers would follow suit. But maybe I’m wrong. If you know someone at NGT who is knowledgeable about this story, and will speak to me on the record about it, then please let me know. I’d welcome the opportunity to get more details. My email: alan (at) societymatters (dot) org.

      • Keb

        Selective and edited documents (with no context provided) are no better than selective and edited facts. I’m not impressed. It smells like a contractual dispute to me.

        • Why a contractual dispute? What facts or context lead you to that conclusion?

          • Keb

            What I’m saying is I’d consider other possibilities. Or to rephrase — I like to know something about a bull before I jump on for a ride.

          • Point taken & good advice.

            While I’m not privy to all the details of this TV production, I’m not jumping blindly on just any passing bull. Mr Adelstein was obviously vetted by NGT before he was hired. Mr Adelstein wrote a well-reviewed book on the yakuza. Mr Adelstein was a guest speaker at the Japan Society in New York City last night. His topic: the yakuza. Mr Adelstein has collaborated with some very reputable media organizations (The Washington Post; 60 Minutes). Mr Adelstein gave me what he claims is an email from an NGT staffer who issues warnings about the film. Mr Adelstein also supplied me with a variety of other documents that seem to support his account of what happened.

            Are there lots of unanswered questions? Yes. Would I like to pose those questions to NG and fill in the blanks? Sure. Which is one reason (among many) I’d like to talk to CEO John Fahey. But for some reason he doesn’t want to talk to me.

            I’ve assumed that others at NGS will also refuse to be interviewed (follow the leader), but you inspired me to give it a try. This afternoon at 3:30pm I called NGT’s President & NGT’s head of story development to ask about Mr Adelstein’s situation. The administrative assistant said they were both unavailable. I left my name & number. I called again a little before 5pm. The administrative assistant said they were still not available.

            I’ll try again on Monday.

            My assumption is that everyone here wants to do the right thing. I have no doubt that John Fahey & the whole NGT team want what’s best for our Society, as I do. But the risk is to ignore this situation… the film is broadcast without the edits Mr Adelstein recommended… and then someone gets hurt, or worse. I’m sure we all agree that’s not the way this story should end.

            Thanks again for your note. More later….

  • Anonymous

    You’re not a reporter. You are NOT a reporter. Why would anyone allow themselves to be interviewed by you? All you do is rant and rave the evils of the Society and their leadership in a slanted manner that clearly shows how disgruntled you are. When was the last time you posted something about the positives that the Society does? Maybe, if you showed some balance and real reporting–oh and got a job at a credible news outlet maybe people would talk to you. Until then you’re just an ex-employee who has an axe to grind.

    • Hi Jessie – Thanks for your comment. And your honesty. A couple of quick thoughts….

      We’re all reporters now. You, me, anyone who wants to be. In fact, you have some real potential as an editorial writer: strong opinions delivered with punch & precision. And your publishing platform is at your fingertips.

      Yes, I focus on what the Society should be doing differently. On what’s wrong with the current blueprint, and what new blueprint might help sustain NGS over the long haul. But there is certainly room for a website that’s more of a fanzine. A blog that celebrates all the great things NGS does. If you start one, I promise to read it. And comment. 🙂

      Re: balance — I’m working on it. But it’s tough getting an interview with the people at NGS who might provide that balance.

      Re: credible news outlets — best I can tell, virtually no senior executives at NGS give interviews to anyone at any news outlet, credible or not. (If I’m wrong, please post some links to interviews I’ve missed.) Why do you think that is?

      Yes, it’s true, I’m an ex-employee. But I’m also a proud member of the Society, who believes there’s a way for NGS to survive & thrive in a digital world — without producing recruiting films for India’s armed forces… or strange advertising partnerships that compromise our Brand… or sacrificing our core values so we can do business in China… or … well, you know what’s on my list.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. And while I think you’re probably right about NGT not answering my questions — and providing the context that Keb said was lacking on the Gangland Tokyo posts — I’ll let you know if NGT surprises us.

      Have a great weekend….

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