My take on the National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox Partnership

To join my brothers in photography and life, Brian Skerry and John Stanmeyer — here is my take on the new NG Partners. My father and I were as different politically as two people can be. We rarely saw eye to eye. But my father gave me my first camera and pushed me out into the field as I embarked on my work as a young photographer, he is the reason I am a photographer today.

I bring this up because many people have reached out to me with a flurry of phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages concerned about the new partnership between National Geographic and 21st Century Fox. This will be called National Geographic Partners with a SHARED governance structure AND EQUAL representation on the board of directors. National Geographic made the deal with James Murdoch, who heads 21st Century Fox. Read the Guardian article about Mr. Murdoch and NG Partners deal http://www.theguardian.com/…/james-murdoch-fox-national-geo… His wife, Kathryn Hufschmid Murdoch, has served as an advisory board member at the Clinton Climate Initiative, and on the board of the Environmental Defense Fund. And although I do not know Mr. Murdoch personally, I do know, trust, admire and respect the people at Nat Geo that formed this partnership—and I have ultimate faith that they did it in the best interest in the future and with the Society’s venerable 127 year history in mind.

There has been a flood of media and social media about the Nat Geo-21st Century Fox partnership, and much of it has been reactionary, met with shock, dismay, and doom and gloom. 21st Century Fox is a partner with National Geographic in NG Partners, they did not buy NG. I am so happy that so many people around the world care so deeply about National Geographic—but let’s all please learn more before passing judgment, and the fact is, that we will have to wait and see.

We live in an apocalyptic age for print publications—with so many laying off legions or closing down. Thankfully, National Geographic has managed to stay afloat. For the last 20 years, with the magazine’s support, I’ve been able capture never-before-seen images that have informed our readers about endangered species—and in a few cases, spark positive change: helping to establish the world’s largest tiger reserve, fund jaguar projects, a bear project in Kamchatka and getting a GPS/SAT collar for P-22 and other cougars who are living around LA and the Hollywood sign, then with the photos sparking action to save cougars and other wildlife near Los Angeles with construction of a wildlife corridor over the 101 Freeway. This was only accomplished with funding from NGM and extra funding from the NG Expedition Council grants.

Many of our writers and photographers do the impossible, but some of these stories were becoming hard to do without additional grant funding which has been slowing down. With rising costs, something needed to happen. The additional funding provided by this new partnership (the endowment is almost doubled) will allow ideas to flourish; will provide more funds for explorers and scientists who are among the best in the world; and will create a geographic educational center and a center for photography. I am optimistic that it will allow us to produce longer, more in-depth stories in the magazine, and expand them with multimedia, television or into theater-released films.

The editorial and photographic teams at The Geographic remains the same. Let me reiterate: I trust the men and women who run the magazine more than anyone I know. Their integrity and commitment to exposing the truth, educating readers and saving the planet are matched only by their will. Today I go to work for the same team of amazing humans who hold the same control over editorial content that did before the new partnership was formed. I support the “yellow border” with tremendous pride, and ask that readers of the magazine wait to see what we are able to do with this new partnership before passing judgment. We appreciate your passion and support for the magazine, but based on conversations I have been privy to early in this process, there is no reason for concern—and many reasons to be excited.

If you have been inspired by and respect the integrity of our work at National Geographic Magazine, then please trust the leaders of the Society who have created this opportunity. We are committed to pursuing the most important stories of our time, told with deep fact-checking and ultimate journalistic integrity and autonomy. I am optimistic that this merger means that we have been given an opportunity to bring readers more of what they look for in the pages of National Geographic Magazine.

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