Turning Lemons into Lemonade: The buyout of National Geographic


National Geographic Magazine

The deeply troubling news of National Geographic magazine being sold to climate denier Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Corporation yesterday is a reminder that we live in very strange, even depressing, times.

The well respected and iconic publication was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s Climate Change Denying corporation 21st Century Fox for $725 million.

The NGS is a casualty of the digital era we live in, a holdover of a time when the physical print publication would arrive each month, with it’s glossy pages, minimal ads and compelling photography being used to showcase articles on wide ranging topics from around the world. It was the gold standard of long form photojournalism IMO.

The Geographic Society had been a non-profit since 1888, but is now a for profit entity with 73% of its shares owned by 21st Century Fox — the same company that owns the extreme right wing media, climate change denying mouthpiece Fox News.

As a community photojournalist for close to two decades, IMO this does not bode well for a publication that among other stories, reported on climate change and its impact on humanity and the environment.

I’ve had 24 hours to digest this announcement and I’m beginning to come out of the shell shock with an idea — one that may just be the answer to this dilemma.

One of the very things that led to the demise of the publication can now be used to create something very similar.


My thoughts on how this travesty could have been avoided
  • NGS could have become a “For Profit Benefit Corporation (B Corp)“, creating a mission/values statement that adheres to the core of the now defunct Non-Profit.  Under the rules of a Benefit Corporation, that charter can never be changed even if bought out.
  • The use of crowdfunding to launch a replacement for National Geographic Magazine fully supported by companies, foundations and members of a yet unnamed entity dedicated to the original principles of the National Geographic Society of old.  This provides the opportunity for discussion and quite possibly to take what had become a bloated and lethargic organization that was too slow to adapt to the changes of the digital realm and start over from scratch and create a non profit venture that will publish with compelling photography and articles that will as part of its charter provide a checks and balance in unbiased, scientific reporting on the world we live in. To utilize the very latest technologies in a stripped down, leaner and dare I say, meaner, way of distributing content both in physical form and digitally.

I don’t have all the answers, I don’t’ even have a solid one — but it does opine on the possibilities.

I mourn the loss of something iconic and meaningful from my life.

RIP National Geographic Magazine.

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