Who are our Society’s heroes?

Words of wisdom from Nicholas Kristof, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and the winner of the George Polk Award, the Overseas Press Club award, the Michael Kelly award, the Online News Association award, and the American Society of Newspaper Editors award:

Nicholas Kristof Facebook Liu Xiaobo

John Fahey National Geographic

NGS CEO John Fahey

Chris Johns

Editor in Chief, National Geographic magazine

Chris Johns Terry Adamson China National Geographic Liu Xiaobo

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM’s new publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China. (2007)

James Cameron on China

James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

Rupert Murdoch laughs

We can do so much better than this.

Why John Fahey’s decision to do business in China was a huge mistake for the National Geographic Society

Banned in China: Bloomberg and New York Times say they had no choice

Meanwhile:

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson stand tall with our new publishing partners in the People$rsquo;s Republic of China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson stand tall with our new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris & Terry shake hands with our new partners.

Chris & Terry shake hands with our new partners.

Chris Johns Terry Adamson China National Geographic Liu Xiaobo

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM’s new publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China. (2007)

Fidelity to what makes us a society

Obama_inauguration_2013_NYTimes

From President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have. … 

 We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. …

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom. …

 In other words: Join The Adventure

(Based on the video teaser for National Geographic’s Great Migrations.)

John Fahey National Geographic

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of National Geographic,
in a national radio interview 
on March 30, 2012:

John_Fahey_new_management_team_red_quote

November 12, 2012:c21media_NatGeoChannel_Yukon_Gold_mining_reality_tv

January 17, 2013: gold_mining_yukon_gold_NYTimes_oped

Dear John:

John Fahey National Geographic

Watch our Society look the other way

NYT_oped_Dim_Hopes_for_free_press_China

Read the whole thing here.

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Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM's new publishing partnership in the People's Republic of China. (2007)

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM’s new publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China. (2007)

Read about Chris Johns’ firm belief in our Society’s lack of “agenda” here.

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John Fahey National Geographic

What do Jill Abramson & Dean Baquet grasp that John Fahey & Chris Johns do not?

NYTimes_dismantles_environment_desk

 Read the whole thing here.

Turning our back on “the most important product of American culture”

Here’s Nicholas Kristof on the role Americans should play in China:

Nicholas_Kristof_on_Ai_Weiwei

Here’s a counterpoint from Chris Johns, Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic magazine, who evidently considers it a virtue to be a consistent advocate of nothing:

In a world full of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing [at National Geographic] for more than 120 years. 

This “unbiased” stuff is nonsense, of course. National Geographic has always had a bias — a predisposition either for or against something.

The only thing that’s changed in the past 15 years is that National Geographic would have once stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ai Weiwei and Nicholas Kristof. But now we go to Beijing and do stuff like this:

Chris & Terry shake hands with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson shake hands with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate with our new publishing partners (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson stand tall with our new publishing partners in China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson stand tall with our new publishing partners in China (2007).

Ai_Weiwei_quote_photo_Beware_of_Images

John Fahey National Geographic

Does size matter?

The assumption behind this new app is that our Society can continue generating revenue by putting cheetah pictures on mobile devices. But apps are just paywalls by a different name: You want the content, you pay up front.

Here are three good reasons paywalls are a bad idea. Worth highlighting: “One of the world’s most successful paywalls [at the New York Times] is not even making up for the continuing decline in print ad revenue.” And yet publishers can’t let go of pay-per-view.

What’s odd is that most publishers would kill to have what National Geographic already possesses: The word “Society” on its masthead. That word (and variations of it) is publishing’s new holy grail. On a quest to build vibrant online communities, publishers are trying to reshape old media brands into new hubs for “the conversation,” and to create relationships with readers that give them a sense of belonging for which they might actually have a reason to pay.

Here at Society Matters, we don’t believe the National Geographic Society has a platform problem, as in: Hey, Bill — let’s make sure those cheetah photos are optimized for iOS and Android devices so customers will keep sending us money.

Instead, we believe that John Fahey and his team at National Geographic confront a challenge that’s less about technology and more about people: If we’re really a Society, then what’s the glue that makes this community cohere?

In the next few months, National Geographic is planning to roll out a new membership program. Even though the initiative is spearheaded by Chief Marketing Officer Amy Maniatis, we sincerely hope it doesn’t come off as a marketing ploy. We hope it doesn’t feel like just another way to harvest email addresses to target consumers. We hope that it doesn’t make our Society feel like an online shopping mall.

Yet we fear that’s exactly what’s coming.

We hope we’re wrong.

Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic magazine, bravely confronts the… uhh… Catholics & Buddhists

Here’s how The New York Times covers
the elephant poaching crisis:

{ Read the whole thing here. }

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Here’s how National Geographic covers the crisis: 

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Here’s what Buddhists think of Chinese rule in Tibet:

Buddhist nun Palden Choetso engulfed in flames in her self-immolation protest against Chinese rule on a street in Tawu, Tibetan Ganzi prefecture, in China’s Sichuan Province. Dozens of Tibetans have set themselves on fire over the past year to protest Chinese rule, sometimes drinking kerosene to make the flames explode from within, in one of the biggest waves of political self-immolations in recent history. (AP Photo/Students For A Free Tibet via AP video)

Here again is investigative reporter Bryan Christy
describing his field work for this National Geographic story:

Here’s how Catholics in China are being persecuted:

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Summing up:

Cheers!

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

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≡  Hat tip to Bong Wenceslao, who first compared the New York Times & National Geographic treatments of this crisis.

Membership & the future of journalism

Back in 2006, I asked John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of National Geographic, this question:

Q: Does the word “Society” have any value to you when you market National Geographic? Or is the word just a vestige from the old days that gets in the way?

John Fahey: It mostly gets in the way. Nobody wants to belong to anything….

I respectfully disagreed with John back then. And to his credit, John is beginning to come around. (See this post about Mission 2015.)

For more evidence that building the Society’s membership should be priority #1, consider this piece, posted yesterday, from Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab:

Read the whole thing here

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