Gary Knell leaves NPR to become National Geographic’s new CEO & President

Gary Knell NPR

Gary Knell

Read the story from NPR here.
Gary Knell’s statement to NPR’s staff is here.
The National Geographic Society’s press release is here.
The Washington Post coverage is here.
The New York Times story is here.

Lesbian Lovers in a Brazilian Prison: Encore Presentation

March 30, 2012

From On The Media: “The Multiple Personalities of National Geographic” (WNYC via NPR):

BOB GARFIELD (co-host of On The Media):  …  On your Channel, NatGeo Channel, you’ve women in prison, you’ve got adult men in diapers, with bottles and pacifiers, high-priced hookers, Nazis. Has NatGeo, the Channel, strayed from the editorial mission of National Geographic, the magazine published by The Society for the last hundred and – almost fifty years?

 JOHN FAHEY (Chairman & CEO of the National Geographic Society):  It’s unfortunate, in a way, that the Channel cannot successfully reflect exactly what the National Geographic Magazine is. I think the audience for each proves to be very different, and to be successful we will have to have a mix of shows that we think are spot on brand, spot on mission, and there’ll be a variety of other shows there that may not appear to be on mission, but are the types of programs that’ll allow this Channel to survive and thrive so that we can do other things in that portfolio that will clearly be much more what one would expect from National Geographic.

BOB GARFIELD:  Brazilian women in prison subsidizing voyages to the bottom of the sea.

JOHN FAHEY:  … I can understand your point, picking out certain of the – of the programs that, quite frankly, we’re not very proud of today. Right now we have new management at the Channel. They are in the process of really looking at the entire slate of programming and working very closely, by the way, with the magazine people here. So we’re going to try to get a much larger percentage of that entire portfolio to reflect the principles and mission of National Geographic. …

August 12, 2012

After “new management” reviewed our “entire slate of programming,” the lesbian lovers in the Brazilian prison evidently made the cut! … Yesterday on Twitter:

Nat Geo Channel cell mate lovers Twitter Aug 2012

Rupert Murdoch with name

On The Media examines the National Geographic Channel’s “slew of pulp non-fiction shows”

On The Media National Geographic

national geographic logo blackLast month, the NatGeo channel unveiled “Diggers,” a show about treasure hunters with metal detectors that the Society for American Archaeology said glorifies looting. “Diggers” is only one of a slew of pulp non-fiction shows on the NatGeo Channel that would surprise anyone familiar with the more-then-century-old National Geographic Magazine. Bob speaks to SAA president Fred Limp, National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey, and NatGeo Channel CEO David Lyle.

HOSTED BY: Bob Garfield

On the Media is produced by WNYC, distributed by NPR, and heard on more than 300 public radio stations. It has won Edward R. Murrow Awards for feature reporting and investigative reporting, the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism and a Peabody Award for its body of work.

Here’s the story:

Read the transcript here.

For more on David Lyle, please see:

UPDATE:  Bob Garfield was given very limited time (10 minutes, I’m told) to interview John Fahey, and therefore could only begin what should be an extended conversation about National Geographic’s partnership with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. If you’d like to learn more about the impact of this deal, please consider clicking Like on the Dear John: Let’s Talk widget (in the right sidebar). Thanks.

“Stereotypes about the South have risen again….”

Here at Society Matters, we’ve long argued that selling our Society’s good name to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation — the majority owner of the National Geographic Channel — has been a disaster for our Brand.

Well, the problem received national attention this morning on NPR, where TV critic Eric Deggans delivered a scathing commentary on the growth of what he called “Redneck TV” — and on the participation of (once blue-chip) documentary producers such as National Geographic:

… More than anything, these [Redneck] series feed an odd sort of racial stereotype. The subjects are hard-partying, not particularly intellectual and connected to the land in ways we Yankees can only guess. They’re real-life descendants of the Dukes of Hazzard who wave around the rebel flag and embrace the term “redneck” as a badge of honor.

Eric Deggans tv critic

Eric Deggans is the TV critic for the St. Petersburg Times.

Which explains the titles for some of these shows: CMT’s My Big Redneck Wedding and Redneck Riviera, a show gathering buzz as a southern-fried Jersey Shore.

And when the National Geographic Channel built a show around Alabama rocket scientist Travis Taylor, guess what they named it? Rocket City Rednecks.

Over in Rocket City, patriarch Charles Taylor was one of NASA’s original machinists. But here, he frets about a homemade submarine his son and grandson have built. And even when these guys have Ph.Ds in aerospace engineering, the show makes them sound like extras in a Hee Haw skit.

It’s even worse that all this hokum comes from traditional sources of great documentaries like History and the National Geographic Channel.

These shows give you a South with no people of color, and they weirdly lack contact with sophisticated southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas; I guess it’s tough to play the bumpkin card when you’re looking at skyscrapers and a booming technology corridor.

It helps to think of reality TV shows as situation comedies for a new generation. And every TV fan knows sitcoms depend on stereotypes to fuel their best jokes. On these shows, decades of stereotypes about the South have risen again, ready to make a new generation laugh at the expense of real understanding.

Despite reality TV’s tendency to stupefy everything it touches, perhaps it’s time for these programs to actually get real, and give us a vision of Southern culture that reaches beyond the fun loving redneck.

Deggans’ piece prompted a comment on NPR’s site from P Blevins, who wrote:

I really hate these shows. They do for Southerns what Jersey Shore does for Yankees. The worst part is these folks serve themselves up to be made fun and laughed at. Yes some of them are laughing all the way to the bank, but the ones who didn’t make the TV cut just get more stereotypes heaped upon them. These shows are nothing more then bigotry on the small screen used to sell a product the same way the once thick lipped Uncle Ben (referring to the original image made to look like a stereotypical black man) was used to sell rice. I am a Southern and proud to have been born into such a rich tradition and culture, why this kind of trash is promoted by the once relevant and upstanding National Geographic Society I will never know. ….

_____

Rupert Murdoch laughs

Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp is the majority owner of the National Geographic Channel, gets the last laugh.

JohnFahey balloon

“You’ve got to change a bit….” (reprise)

{ from our Greatest Hits archive }

JohnFahey at AssociationBisnow

John Fahey comments on the future of non-profit organizations during a panel discussion in September 2010 in Washington, DC.

If you were willing to pay $39 for a ticket in September [of 2010], you could have listened to John Fahey, CEO of National Geographic, and NPR’s Vivian Schiller “Discuss the Future” of non-profit (media) organizations. The event, sponsored by Bisnow, was moderated by Richard Newman, a lawyer who represents both NPR and NGS. (We’ve never seen John participate in a panel moderated by a journalist, but it’s good to see him stepping up on any stage, even when chaperoned by his attorney.)

Although no transcript is available, Bisnow posted a very brief summary, including this observation by John:

“The minute you go international you’ve got to change a bit so you resonate with the local audiences,” John says. For example, when National Geographic Magazine published a story about Barcelona, the Spanish language edition had to change the title to “An American Visits Barcelona.” … John tells us that ideally National Geographic will be viewed as a truly local organization in all parts of the world.

Some reactions:

•  The Barcelona anecdote is more than ten years old, and not a particularly enlightening one because…

•  Tweaking the title of a feature story is breathtakingly insignificant compared to how John has changed both our Magazine and our Society. To “go international,” to “resonate with the local audiences,” and to get into Russia and China, John had to engineer some major changes in the Magazine’s editorial focus. Exhibit A: The National Geographic story you’ll never get to read.

• The Arabic edition of NGM is distributed in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. It’s a trans-national magazine in a way that, say, NGM-Poland is not. How, then, will NGM-Arabic help the National Geographic Society be seen as a “truly local organization”?

NGM China cover 206x300

NGM China launched in 2007.

• NGM’s local language partners are encouraged to produce some of their own content. But most local editions still rely on NGM headquarters to generate the bulk of the editorial. So, when Editor Chris Johns evaluates story proposals, he has to ask: Will this article appeal to readers in Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey… all the Arabic-speaking countries listed above… and a host of English-speaking countries. As a result, you end up with lots of critter, climate, and landscape stories, and none with a title like “Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Freedom.”

If John were a bit more forthcoming, we imagine him saying something like this:

… The minute you go international you’ve got to change a lot— especially when venturing beyond the Western world. You must absorb the local customs, beliefs, and values, and then reflect them back to the local market. You must embrace a particular kind of multiculturalism. You must satisfy your customers. In effect, you must become a publishing chameleon that can blend seamlessly and simultaneously into many different surroundings.

Such a dramatic makeover often requires bold steps. In National Geographic’s case, we’ve had to abandon some old ways, and embrace new ones. Let me give you an example….

NGMcover July1944 209x300

July 1944

Years ago, National Geographic refused to publish stories about the Soviet Union. Why? Because during most of the Cold War, the Magazine’s editors were staunch anti-communists. During World War II, National Geographic actively promoted the sale of U.S. war bonds on the cover of the Magazine (right) because the editors had an agenda: Defeat fascism. For decades, NGM published stories with the word “Our” in the title — Our Armies of Mercy (May 1917, about the American Red Cross); Our Growing Interstate Highway System (February 1968); Our National Forests: Problems in Paradise (September 1982). That first-person-plural pronoun reflected the fact that National Geographic is the official journal of a Society which, back then, saw itself, its members, and the world in national, not international terms.

Most of all, the Magazine, from the 1940s to the 1980s, had a clear point of view — one that celebrated freedom and democracy.

Problem is, how can you export a Magazine like that to China? You can’t. So I began introducing some fundamental changes at NGS — but I did so gradually, so as not to alarm the natives.  [laughter] Among my innovations:

•  We now focus less on national geography, and more on the natural world — trees, critters, climate and such.

•  I crafted a new mission statement: Inspiring people to care about the planet.” That’s less national, more global. It also frames Society-wide initiatives such as our efforts to protect big cats. (We’ll leave the protection of free speech to others.)

ChrisJohns

Chris Johns

I picked Chris Johns, a wildlife photographer with virtually no management experience, to be the Magazine’s Editor. (I pay him more than $625,000 per year, which may seem like an exorbitant salary for an editor of a non-profit ink-on-paper magazine that’s dying. But I find the money encourages Chris to be more open-minded about the changes I’ve needed him to implement.)

•  I’m also working hard to eliminate the word “Society” from our nameplate and brand profile. Why? Because people don’t want to belong as much as they want to buy — DVDs, t-shirts, trips to New Zealand, luggage, bedroom furniture… whatever. Don’t think “membership”; think “retail.”

Put another way: If you see the world in national terms, then people are citizens who embrace different allegiances and values. That’s a tough world in which to scale up a media business. But if you see the world as a marketplace, then people are consumers who buy stuff.

These two identities — citizen & consumer — are not mutually exclusive, of course. But one of them creates a much bigger arena where we can sell our cheetah pictures.

My business challenge has been to identify a global common denominator that will help transform National Geographic into a profitable global brand.

My approach has been to focus on what people share (the planet) instead of on what makes people different (i.e., our values).

Unfortunately, there are two downsides to my strategy. First, I’m abandoning one of National Geographic’s secrets to success: Difference. Those classic Geographic photos of bare-breasted women were not just titillating for teenage boys; they were also a vivid reminder that the world is an eye-popping kaleidoscope of nations and cultures and people who understand the world in dramatically different ways.

Second, by focusing on The Planet, we end up climbing into bed with some nasty characters — autocrats, dictators, and demagogues. That may strike you as wrong, or immoral, or soulless. But let’s be frank: I run a business, not a seminary.

I hasten to add that I enjoy a luxury that many other media executives don’t: Freedom from scrutiny. The non-profit side of the Society has no stockholders. The employees have no union. NGS has “members,” but they have no power, no vote, no real voice. And I almost never agree to be interviewed by journalists. Which means the future of the National Geographic Society is almost entirely in the hands of about 20 people — the Board of Trustees, many of whom I’ve hand-picked, and… me.

All that — plus, as CEO & Chairman of this tax-exempt, non-profit Society, I’m paid more than $1.35 million per year.

The take-away for all you non-profit executives in the audience?

•  Don’t be afraid to change “a bit” — or a lot.

•  Evaluate the growth potential of various global markets, and re-position yourself as needed. After all, one dollar of revenue from Beijing counts the same as one dollar of revenue from Boston.

•  Hire senior managers who — after federal, state, and FICA deductions — will eagerly embrace your values and vision.

And…

Stay thirsty, my friends.   [laughter]

Any questions?

_____

Objective Nonsense (part 25)

Remember Chris Johns’ claim that photographer Stephanie Sinclair has “no agenda” when she shoots her stories? It was part of an Editor’s Note in which Chris insisted that in “a world of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

Stephanie Sinclair

Stephanie Sinclair

In 24 installments of this ongoing series, we’ve documented why Chris is wrong.

Today, we present Stephanie Sinclair, whose most recent story for National Geographic is about child brides. Here’s what she told NPR about this practice of 25-year-old men marrying 6-year-old girls:

“I strongly believe there is not just a need for awareness-raising and prevention work, but we must find ways to help these girls who are already in these marriages — be it through giving financial incentives to their families to let them stay in school, or vocational training so they can have more say in their lives and households. Quality medical treatment is also needed for girls who are giving birth at these young ages. These girls need long-term solutions. There is no quick fix.

I am a firm believer in Desmond Tutu’s words,I am because we are.”

Sounds like Stephanie has a well-defined agenda — and God bless her for that.

Even National Geographic magazine has an obvious agenda on this issue. In the Letters section of the October 2011 issue, there’s a list of groups that “work to delay girls’ marriages and improve their lives”:

NGM Letter child brides arrow

Summing up:

√  The practice of little girls marrying grown men? Our Society is against it.

√  Communism? For decades, our Society was against it.

√  The rise of fascism in Europe in the 1940s? Our Society was (eventually) against it.

But what about now, Chris Johns? Is our Society for or against the rise of theocratic and autocratic regimes? Why do you remain silent when a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in China is put under house arrest — or when you visit the Middle East? When confronted by anti-democratic bullies, why do you suddenly start “inspiring people to care about the planet”?

China Arabic launch 2 pix

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate the launch of NGM-China in 2007 (left) and NGM-Arabic in 2010 (right)

_____

≡ photo of Stephanie Sinclair via the University of Florida 

“It is not very easy to learn to be a free person.”

Writer Hogler Teschke talked to NPR’s Renee Montagne last month about the divisions that remain in Germany 50 years after the rise of the Berlin Wall. An excerpt:

Holger Teschke

Holger Teschke

Hogler Teschke:  The people in the West grew up in a democratic and an open and liberal society, and we [in East Germany] did not. And with freedom and with democracy, there are also many, many challenges and we have to learn to face this. And you have to learn to think and to act for yourself. I think that was one of the things that was taken away from the people over the 40 years of party dictatorship in the East. 

Renee Montagne:  You mean it wasn’t just an immediate gratification of the basic human need to be free, as I think the most idealistic people would think. That emerging from communism wasn’t that simple.  

Hogler Teschke:  A very good old friend of mine… once said, it is not very easy to learn to be a free person. That sounds very simple and banal, but it is not if you have not learned it from your childhood on.

____

Our Society once helped us learn to be free people by telling the stories that help our society cohere.

Today, National Geographic’s priorities lie elsewhere. Our values have changed. And from where we sit, this doesn’t feel like progress.

Our partner, Rupert Murdoch (part 4)

News Corp is the majority owner
of the National Geographic Channel.

 

“All roads now lead to Andy Carvin”

Guardian UK nameplate2

SXSW Andy Carvin tweets revolution Guardian

By Ian Katz, Monday 14 March 2011

Andy Carvin is getting a little sick of talking about which verb best describes what he does. “It’s somewhere between reporting and collaborative network journalism, and George Plimpton-like oral history, except that I’m doing it in real time in 140 characters. I don’t know what to call that and I don’t care as long as people don’t waste my time trying to give it a name.”

Andy Carvin

Andy Carvin

Whatever Carvin’s particular brand of news gathering should be called, it has made him a must-read source on the Arab uprisings – and possibly the most talked about person at SXSW. “All roads now lead to Andy Carvin,” declared media critic Jeff Jarvis at a discussion on the future of news.

Ever since the start of the Tunisian uprising in December 2010, Carvin has been ignoring his day job as a strategist for National Public Radio and serving as a one-man broadcast channel-cum-newswire on events in the Middle East. A veteran of social media who used Twitter to factcheck the 2008 presidential election, he began retweeting testimonies, pictures and video from the protests in Tunisia – then Egypt and Libya.

Although Carvin had a network of blogger contacts in the region whom he used to check information being tweeted, what marks him out is his willingness to retweet unverified material and ask his followers for help to establish its accuracy. “I admit that I don’t know the answer to things and see users as potential experts and eyewitnesses. In some ways what I’m doing is not that different from a broadcast host doing a breaking live story with a producer in one ear, talking to pundits and all the while anchoring the coverage, but rather than producers I have followers.” …

t logo a

Who at National Geographic is covering the disaster in Japan, and reporting on it Andy Carvin-style? No one, which is no surprise. Andy’s approach is new.

But here’s an idea: Next time a natural disaster strikes, why couldn’t someone at NGM follow Andy’s lead? One staffer could take on the assignment — Dennis Dimick (Executive Editor, Environment), or Robert Kunzig (Senior Editor, Environment), or Jamie Schreeve (Executive Editor, Science). Or maybe Robert Michael Murray (NG VP for Social Media).

By crowdsourcing the coverage via Twitter and other social platforms, National Geographic could engage a sliver of its huge global audience — hundreds of millions of people strong — to create something new and valuable.

Otherwise, National Geographic and its dwindling staff will be forced to take superficial, unsatisfying swipes at major events like the Japanese tsunami, for which we’re posting a handful of photos from AFP/Gettyreplaying old TV specials about tsunamis, and thus far doing little else. That’s sad, especially since covering natural disasters was once a National Geographic specialty.

Andy Carvin, and an increasing number of reporters who are not afraid of the people formerly known as the audience, are building new tools, new relationships, new communities, and a new kind of journalism.

So, too, can the National Geographic Society.

_____
≡  Photo of Andy Carvin via mediasummit.org.

“You’ve got to change a bit….”

JohnFahey at AssociationBisnow

John Fahey comments on the future of non-profit organizations during a panel discussion last September in Washington, DC.

If you were willing to pay $39 for a ticket in September, you could have listened to John Fahey, CEO of National Geographic, and NPR’s Vivian Schiller “Discuss the Future” of non-profit (media) organizations. The event, sponsored by Bisnow, was moderated by Richard Newman, a lawyer who represents both NPR and NGS. (We’ve never seen John participate in a panel moderated by a journalist, but it’s good to see him stepping up on any stage, even when chaperoned by his attorney.)

Although no transcript is available, Bisnow posted a very brief summary, including this observation by John:

“The minute you go international you’ve got to change a bit so you resonate with the local audiences,” John says. For example, when National Geographic Magazine published a story about Barcelona, the Spanish language edition had to change the title to “An American Visits Barcelona.” … John tells us that ideally National Geographic will be viewed as a truly local organization in all parts of the world.

Some reactions:

•  The Barcelona anecdote is more than ten years old, and not a particularly enlightening one because…

•  Tweaking the title of a feature story is breathtakingly insignificant compared to how John has changed both our Magazine and our Society. To “go international,” to “resonate with the local audiences,” and to get into Russia and China, John had to engineer some major changes in the Magazine’s editorial focus. Exhibit A: The National Geographic story you’ll never get to read.

• The Arabic edition of NGM is distributed in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. It’s a trans-national magazine in a way that, say, NGM-Poland is not. How, then, will NGM-Arabic help the National Geographic Society be seen as a “truly local organization”?

NGM China cover 206x300

NGM China launched in 2007.

• NGM’s local language partners are encouraged to produce some of their own content. But most local editions still rely on NGM headquarters to generate the bulk of the editorial. So, when Editor Chris Johns evaluates story proposals, he has to ask: Will this article appeal to readers in Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey… all the Arabic-speaking countries listed above… and a host of English-speaking countries. As a result, you end up with lots of critter, climate, and landscape stories, and none with a title like “Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Freedom.”

If John were a bit more forthcoming, we imagine him saying something like this:

… The minute you go international you’ve got to change a lot— especially when venturing beyond the Western world. You must absorb the local customs, beliefs, and values, and then reflect them back to the local market. You must embrace a particular kind of multiculturalism. You must satisfy your customers. In effect, you must become a publishing chameleon that can blend seamlessly and simultaneously into many different surroundings.

Such a dramatic makeover often requires bold steps. In National Geographic’s case, we’ve had to abandon some old ways, and embrace new ones. Let me give you an example….

NGMcover July1944 209x300

July 1944

Years ago, National Geographic refused to publish stories about the Soviet Union. Why? Because during most of the Cold War, the Magazine’s editors were staunch anti-communists. During World War II, National Geographic actively promoted the sale of U.S. war bonds on the cover of the Magazine (right) because the editors had an agenda: Defeat fascism. For decades, NGM published stories with the word “Our” in the title — Our Armies of Mercy (May 1917, about the American Red Cross); Our Growing Interstate Highway System (February 1968); Our National Forests: Problems in Paradise (September 1982). That first-person-plural pronoun reflected the fact that National Geographic is the official journal of a Society which, back then, saw itself, its members, and the world in national, not international terms.

Most of all, the Magazine, from the 1940s to the 1980s, had a clear point of view — one that celebrated freedom and democracy.

Problem is, how can you export a Magazine like that to China? You can’t. So I began introducing some fundamental changes at NGS — but I did so gradually, so as not to alarm the natives.  [laughter] Among my innovations:

•  We now focus less on national geography, and more on the natural world — trees, critters, climate and such.

•  I crafted a new mission statement: Inspiring people to care about the planet.” That’s less national, more global. It also frames Society-wide initiatives such as our efforts to protect big cats. (We’ll leave the protection of free speech to others.)

ChrisJohns

Chris Johns

I picked Chris Johns, a wildlife photographer with virtually no management experience, to be the Magazine’s Editor. (I pay him more than $625,000 per year, which may seem like an exorbitant salary for an editor of a non-profit ink-on-paper magazine that’s dying. But I find the money encourages Chris to be more open-minded about the changes I’ve needed him to implement.)

•  I’m also working hard to eliminate the word “Society” from our nameplate and brand profile. Why? Because people don’t want to belong as much as they want to buy — DVDs, t-shirts, trips to New Zealand, luggage, bedroom furniture… whatever. Don’t think “membership”; think “retail.”

Put another way: If you see the world in national terms, then people are citizens who embrace different allegiances and values. That’s a tough world in which to scale up a media business. But if you see the world as a marketplace, then people are consumers who buy stuff.

These two identities — citizen & consumer — are not mutually exclusive, of course. But one of them creates a much bigger arena where we can sell our cheetah pictures.

My business challenge has been to identify a global common denominator that will help transform National Geographic into a profitable global brand.

My approach has been to focus on what people share (the planet) instead of on what makes people different (i.e., our values).

Unfortunately, there are two downsides to my strategy. First, I’m abandoning one of National Geographic’s secrets to success: Difference. Those classic Geographic photos of bare-breasted women were not just titillating for teenage boys; they were also a vivid reminder that the world is an eye-popping kaleidoscope of nations and cultures and people who understand the world in dramatically different ways.

Second, by focusing on The Planet, we end up climbing into bed with some nasty characters — autocrats, dictators, and demagogues. That may strike you as wrong, or immoral, or soulless. But let’s be frank: I run a business, not a seminary.

I hasten to add that I enjoy a luxury that many other media executives don’t: Freedom from scrutiny. The non-profit side of the Society has no stockholders. The employees have no union. NGS has “members,” but they have no power, no vote, no real voice. And I almost never agree to be interviewed by journalists. Which means the future of the National Geographic Society is almost entirely in the hands of about 20 people — the Board of Trustees, many of whom I’ve hand-picked, and… me.

All that — plus, as CEO & Chairman of this tax-exempt, non-profit Society, I’m paid more than $1.35 million per year.

The take-away for all you non-profit executives in the audience?

•  Don’t be afraid to change “a bit” — or a lot.

•  Evaluate the growth potential of various global markets, and re-position yourself as needed. After all, one dollar of revenue from Beijing counts the same as one dollar of revenue from Boston.

•  Hire senior managers who — after federal, state, and FICA deductions — will eagerly embrace your values and vision.

And…

Stay thirsty, my friends.   [laughter]

Any questions?

_____

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