Re: Society Matters

Society Matters is…

≡  a running commentary & critique of the National Geographic Society’s broken business model,
≡  a crowdsourced vision of a sustainable future for the Society,
≡  a first step to help transform the National Geographic Society into an editorially independent, financially self-supporting, web-centric, broad-based, fully networked journalism community. (We also hope this project might serve as a model for other journalism operations searching for a new business model.)

For more details, please see our inaugural post.

Re: Me

Alan Mairson

I’m Alan Mairson, and I’m a freelance journalist based just outside Washington, DC. For several years now I’ve been fascinated, unnerved, and excited (often at the same time) by the tectonic shifts that have been rattling the media world in general, and journalism in particular.

As a staff writer and editor for National Geographic magazine from 1990 to 2008, I worked with some of the most creative people in the publishing business. Over lunches, dinners, coffees, and beers, we spent countless hours debating the best way for journalism — and for the National Geographic Society — to move forward during this unpredictable migration from a print to a digital world.

In many ways, Society Matters is a continuation of those conversations. Admittedly, doing this on the web makes it more difficult to share a coffee or beer with you, but it does provide some significant advantages: more people — inside and outside the Society — can participate in the discussion; more ideas and resources can be publicly shared; and more collaboration and transparency can help produce a better strategy for the journey ahead.

Most of all, I hope this site might be a very modest example of what National Geographic has the potential to demonstrate on a far larger scale: Individual members of a society or a Society can often accomplish far more together than they might ever accomplish alone.

As a National Geographic staffer, I wrote feature stories, departments, legends (captions), map copy, story proposals, and more. I also served as an Assistant Editor, supervising the Magazine’s staff writers; as a Regional Editor for Australia and the Pacific; and as a co-chair of the Magazine’s editorial seminar. In 2002 I was selected as a Lilly Fellow in Religion, Spirituality, and Ethics at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Prior to joining the Magazine’s staff, I was a writer for National Geographic’s Educational Media Division (now called School Publishing), where I worked on both the editorial and software for National Geographic’s first interactive video project (a co-production with Apple and Lucasfilm Ltd.).

Before joining the NGS staff, I worked as a researcher and writer for an energy policy consulting firm in Washington, DC; as a litigation assistant for a DC law firm; and as a bouncer at a restaurant/nightclub — but for just one night. I graduated from Wesleyan University in 1981 with a double major in Economics and in Government. And finally (pushing the rewind button all the way down): I grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, birthplace of American liberty (and only ten miles from Fenway Park).

I now live in Bethesda, Maryland, with my wife and two children. (For those of you scoring at home: We’re now 450 miles from Fenway.)


Re: Our Advisers

Caralee Adams is a freelance journalist based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Jan Adkins is an illustrator, storyteller, explainer, sailor, chef, tennis player, and the main man at Jan Adkins Studio. He formerly served as the associate art director for National Geographic magazine.

Daniel Bachhuber is Executive Director of CoPress, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing college news outlets with the technical resources and support network they need to innovate online.

Roger Baumgarten is a 23-year veteran of media relations and crisis communication — in government, the private sector, and as a consultant. He is on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Press Club, and he blogs at Media Relations: Misses and Hits.

David Beveridge is the Vice President for Operations at Software Consortium.

Bob Clark is a writer for the Fox TV series America’s Most Wanted, and a producer for STF Productions.

David Cohn is the founder and director of Spot.us, an open source project that’s pioneering community-funded journalism.

Daniel Conover is a former metro-daily city editor and online news director, and was South Carolina’s Journalist of the Year in 2005. After 18 years in the news business, he took a buyout in 2008. He’s now a freelance writer, illustrator, cartoonist, and videographer. His blog: Xark. On Twitter, he’s @xarker.

Lynda DeWitt is the Communications Director of the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, Maryland. She is the founder of Solar Mowing, a company that provides environmentally responsible lawn services.

Kevin Enochs is a media consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bruce A. Fredrickson is a member of Webster, Fredrickson, Correia & Puth. As a trial lawyer, he specializes in the fields of employment discrimination, labor, and civil rights. Among other matters, Mr. Fredrickson battled for over two decades to win the largest employment discrimination award in the history of the Civil Rights Act. He currently serves as President of the National Employment Lawyers Association.

Marc Gunther is a contributing writer to FORTUNE magazine, and the author of four books, including Faith and Fortune: How Compassionate Capitalism Is Transforming American Business.

Retha Hill is the Director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Jeff Howe is a contributing writer at Wired magazine, and the author of Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business. He was recently selected to be a Nieman Fellow for 2009-2010.

Rick Johnson was the Founding Executive Director of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). He is now a Principal with Inspira Strategic Consulting.

Leon Kass, M.D. is the former chairman of the Presidential Council on Bioethics. He is currently a Hertog Fellow at the W.H Brady Program in Culture and Freedom at the American Enterprise Institute.

Carol Kaufmann is Online Senior Editor at the AARP Bulletin. Formerly she was an online columnist for Reader’s Digest.

Mike Klesius is a staff editor for Air & Space/Smithsonian Magazine. His writing has appeared in the anthology The Best American Science Writing.

Mindy McAdams is a faculty member of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, and the author of Flash Journalism: How to Create Multimedia News Packages. She formerly was the web strategist at the American Press Institute, and was the first online content developer at The Washington Post. Her blog: Teaching Online Journalism.

Reuben Musgrave was Director of Presidential Letters & Messages at the White House during the Clinton administration. He’s now the Manager of Executive Correspondence for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Claire Sale is a professional listener, blogger, and online engager at the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross.

Carol Schwalbe is an Associate Professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She formerly was an editor for National Geographic magazine.

Paul Seebeck, a broadcast journalist and pastor, is now the Associate for Missions Communications for the Presbyterian Church (USA) national center in Louisville, KY.

Nina Simon is a design consultant who helps create participatory, audience-centered museum spaces. Her blog is called Museum 2.0.

Sibley Verbeck is the founder & CEO of the Electric Sheep Company, which creates Web-enabled social and virtual world experiences.

David Weinberger is a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. He is the author of Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web and Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. He is also the co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual.

Philip Zipin is the founding partner of The Zipin Law Firm, LLC.


Tom Kennedy is the founder of Kennedy Multimedia, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations improve their visual storytelling. Formerly he was the Managing Editor of Multimedia for the The Washington Post, and Director of Photography for National Geographic magazine. (August 2012 update: Tom is now on the staff of the PBS NewsHour, and recently resigned from all of his board positions to avoid any conflict of interest.)

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