To: Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic magazine
Re: Cory Richards
You’re watching The Magazine die a slow death. Or, if you believe John Fahey, not-so-slow.
And you think sending Cory Richards up the West Ridge of Mt. Everest might be a good way to demonstrate that, as Editor, you’re still alive & kicking.
But you need to bring Cory Richards home. Now. Because there’s no good reason for him to be up there, and no reason for our Society to be underwriting what is a pointless and very dangerous stunt.
This whole Mt. Everest trip is a ghoulish game in which Cory and others go to the brink of death — or over it — while you put on your Serious Editor Face and blather about “the brotherhood of the rope.”
You need to stop this insanity. Because this isn’t a “story” you’re covering. It’s a circus which you (and The North Face) dreamed up, and funded, and promoted — and from which you’re trying to earn some cash. (How are the page views doing now that Cory is in critical condition?)
You’ve choreographed what is, in effect, a reality TV show where the only suspense is whether the characters return home alive or dead.
This so-called “drama” is a stage show of your own making.
It’s also the modern equivalent of offering a human sacrifice to slake the thirst of the Angry Gods of Publishing.
In Cliffhangers: The fatal descent of the mountain-climbing memoir, Bruce Barcott writes:
… For all the trauma, mountaineers are astonishingly casual about death. Photographs of fellow climbers are labeled “before he was killed in the Verdon Gorge” or “before they died . . . near Kathmandu.” The longer you linger in this library of death the more natural the captions seem. If done properly (during an ascent, descent, or bivouac), erasure from the list of the quick confers glory all ’round: on the dead for proving their will to climb, on the mountain for the new respect it demands, and on the survivors for their courage to continue in the face of disaster. Unlike any other sport, mountaineering demands that its players die. …
If Cory Richards (or anyone else) dies during this publishing stunt, you’ll need to explain why you believe it was worth someone else’s life.