RIP: Society Matters (2009-2014)

After more than four years of reporting and writing here at Society Matters — about the future of journalism, and about the past, present, and future of the National Geographic Society — this post will be my last one. Here’s why…


On November 11, 2013 — one day after I published a post called “Why did Chris Johns kill the Egypt story?” — Terry Adamson, Chief Legal Officer at the National Geographic Society, sent me a letter (via email and next-day courier), with cc’s to John Fahey, Chairman of NGS, and Tony Sablo, head of National Geographic’s Human Resources division. In the letter, Terry expressed his… well, let’s just say “some concerns.” I responded to Terry (and John & Tony) via email… received another letter from Terry… and later talked to Terry and Tony on the phone. Then I hired a lawyer — a friend who runs a small law practice in Silver Spring, Maryland.

On December 10, 2013, my lawyer sent a reply to Terry. Here’s how it concluded: “Alan and I would be willing to meet with you to discuss how we can establish some specific guidelines that might help us avoid any future misunderstandings…. Our goal is to find a mutually agreeable and constructive way to move forward, and to help NGS survive and thrive in the months and years to come.”

On January 17, 2014, we received a reply from attorney David Hensler, a partner at Hogan Lovells, a law firm with more than 2,500 attorneys operating out of more than 40 offices in the United States, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. According to the Hogan Lovells website:

David [Hensler] was described as “the city’s commercial litigator par excellence” in a Legal Times article titled “Identifying 20 Leading Litigators.” David was also described as “a 24-carat commercial litigator” and was ranked No. 1 for General Commercial Litigation in Washington, D.C. in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business Litigation. David is also listed as a leading Commercial Litigator in The Best Lawyers in America and Chambers Global—The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business.

Dear John Fahey: Message received.


Before I say good-bye, a few thank yous:

The Final Word goes to NGS Chairman John Fahey:  


I couldn’t agree more.

all the best,

  • luther Jett

    This is a sad day for journalism in America. Thank you, Alan, for all of your efforts to foster open-ness and honesty through this project.

  • michelle taives

    There seems to be a missing piece here – were you threatened with a lawsuit? Sent a Cease & Desist?

  • Kelly

    It is getting frightening how all the voices, one way or another, are being silenced.

  • joe

    Why don’t you tell the entire story. Why don’t you tell people that you stalked someone at their family’s house and recorded them without their consent. Journalists actually have ask their subjects for consent to be quoted or taped. In the privacy of someone’s home, our laws also protect people to a certain level of understood privacy. Why didn’t you just climb into bed with him? Also, if you are a real journalist, aren’t you obligated to tell the truth?

  • Cdwidea

    Well, sad to see it shutdown the way it was – but this wasn’t journalism. It was a one-sided opinion piece, much like Bill O’Reilly or Michael Moore. Kind of dug your own hole with this one and maybe its time to hang up that chip on your shoulder and move on. Nothing wrong with an opinion piece, basically the internet is filled with opinions – but surprised anyone here thinks this was open, honest or any type of journalistic integrity.

  • Robert Bauval, author

    Very very sad…. and frightening. You courageous reporting, and genuine desire to safeguard the once-high standards of NGS is/was commendable.
    I have especially followed your commentaries regarding the unholy relationship between NGS and Zahi Hawass, the ex-Minister of Antiquities in Egypt. As you know, this relationship which started in 2001 has dragged NGS into a ‘bribery’ investigation by the US Justice Department. I understand, too, that NGS’s name has been dragged into the High Courts of Egypt amid accusations of illegal dealing with Hawass. All this, inter alia, is casting a dark cloud over the future of NGS and its reputation. And what their lawyers have coerced you to stop you reporting darkens this cloud even more. I expect these lawyers will be sooner or later unleashed on me, since I am writing a book that will expose this unholy relationship between GNS and Hawass. Alea Jacta est.

  • Robert Bauval, author
  • julebud

    So you’re just going to give up? I don’t care if they have more lawyers. WERE THE GOOD GUYS! KARMA FAVORS US! If you get arrested, you will become a symbol of the resistance. I hope you start another blog. Only a wimp would let the weak & stupid evil ones intimidate them. They’ll all fall, sweetie, THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST & THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST!

  • From Cairo

    Alan-It isn’t over yet and eventually you will be vindicated. Things appear to be moving again in Cairo

  • stephen zamarin

    It looks like Chris Johns is being replaced as editor. Here is a link

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.