“Pandering to the fears that divide us…”

John Fahey, Chairman of the National Geographic Society, is the architect of the organization’s two-pronged brand strategy: the good works of the Society — the Magazine, Mission programs, the education programs, and more, all of which cost a lot of money — would be subsidized by the tabloid trash on the National Geographic Channel (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation). John’s assumption: The Quality would not get infected by The Sleaze.

Here at Society Matters, we’ve argued that John’s assumption was, and remains, fatally flawed. We believe that “you can’t promote wisdom with your right hand and champion ignorance with your left.” If you need more proof, here’s an incisive and eloquent letter of resignation from a longtime member of NGS:

1325 Waterford Drive
East Greenwich RI 02818
25 October 2013

Mr. Gary Knell
President and CEO
National Geographic
1145 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Mr. Knell,

I wanted to write and let you know that this edition will be the last in my subscription to National Geographic Magazine. My grandparents were subscribers, as were my parents, and I have been a subscriber for more than 20 years. Over the course of those years, I have loved the world that the magazine opened up before me through its stunning photos and well researched articles. I learned much about the history, beauty and fragility of our planet and all its peoples.

However, I can no longer support an organization that has strayed so far from its original mission. One of the main faces of the National Geographic brand is now the TV channel which perpetuates the worst kind of sensationalist shows. Programs like Doomsday Preppers, Doomsday Castle and the new American Blackout encourage suspicion, fear, and violence. These are the anthesis [sic] of the original National Geographic values of encouraging knowledge, understanding, and illustrating our common humanity.

I urge you not to abandon the original vision and values of National Geographic and to rethink the current strategy. There is a great need for informative, researched, thoughtful programs about our natural world and the lives and hopes of people all around the globe. Please find it in your heart and conscious [sic] not to pander to the fears that divide us but the hopes and goals that unite us. Maybe then my children will be able to become subscribers too (digital ones of course).

Sincerely yours,

 

Chris Perrett (Mrs.)

cc: Mr. John Fahey, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
National Geographic Magazine Letter to the Editor
Societymatters.org

 _____

Update:

email-to-John-Fahey-Gary-Knell-member-resigns

  • Anonymous

    Its a shame this person doesn’t actually pay any attention to the channel. Doomsday Castle, yep, that’s a shameless reality show they should be embarrassed by – and likely are. But not bringing the brand down, its one show, come and gone – of the few people that likely saw it in the US, even fewer had any idea it was associated with NG – and for those that did, I’d bet a lot of money most didn’t care nor did it change their opinion of the NG Society. Its not the topic that people should be afraid of, its the treatment in
    the show.

    Preppers and American Blackout? AWESOME. Why can’t NG cover prepping or cyber terrorism? Polygamy was a cover story. This is part of the world and all that’s in it- and not sensational at all – but a real depiction of real people. I find it fascinating and have seen them all. Its not done like Discovery has done prepping – which is over the top and sensational.

    Blackout was incredible – again, not sensational but a more modern storytelling technique. some people don’t adjust well and are stuck in the past. I’m assuming this person would rather the channel just read the magazine on air-but only magazines from the past when everything was nicer.

    No mention of Brain Games, the upcoming Cosmos, Life Below Zero (fantastic show), Chasing Ice and other great shows & specials. Nor any mention of the ENTIRE NETWORK DEVOTED TO WILDLIFE. Sure, NGC pushes the envelope now and then – they are in commercial, not public, television. But, despite your attempts, it hasn’t done that – and seems to be balancing itself out more, despite people like this that seem to want to live in the past. I like the new storytelling, i like the controversial topics and I’m still a subscriber (I don’t hold anything against the Hallmark channel because of their stupid Greeting cards)

    • You make some great points. Why simply focus on the trash? Why not look instead to some of the quality programs on the Channel?

      In this case, the answer can be found in the letter Ms. Perrett sent to NGS: “My grandparents were subscribers, as were my parents, and I have been a subscriber for more than 20 years….” National Geographic is not simply an entertainment or media company; it has been an organization that has been a part of the Perrett family for three generations. They had a connection to NGS that was unlike anything they ever experienced with, say, CBS television, ESPN, or HBO.

      Imagine you had an Uncle Bob who periodically got stinking drunk every Friday night, and made a complete ass of himself in the village square — insulting people, molesting small children, picking fights with his neighbors. Saturday morning he’d wake up with a terrible hangover… Sunday he’d recover… and Monday he’d be back at work again. But then Friday would roll around, and Uncle Bob would make a drunken fool of himself yet again.

      Your neighbors across town might find the whole thing amusing, or embarrassing, or a relatively harmless distraction. But you — you’re family. You care about Bob, his wife, his kids, and all his loved ones. You see why this behavior isn’t amusing, or simply embarrassing, but rather, bad news for everyone involved. As a result, you and all Bob’s friends and family come together to stage an intervention — to say, in effect, This behavior is unacceptable. We will no longer ignore it, or enable it. Today marks a new beginning in our relationship….

      To me, this is what Ms Perrett’s letter is all about.

      The National Geographic Society isn’t a media company; it’s a family. Ms. Perrett grasps this in a way that Chairman John Fahey clearly does not.

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