Last week, a single piece of news rocked the internet in a way that few other headlines have. The world learned that 21st Century Fox – an outfit formerly headed by known climate denier Rupert Murdoch – will pay $725 million to increase its stake in National Geographic. This move gives the company a 73 percent share of the company, which has been a nonprofit scientific institution for the last 127 years. News of the deal had a lot of people freaking out, as concerns over the possible “Foxification” of one of the world’s most beloved nature magazines spread across the internet as fast as the cutest of kitten videos, but insiders are saying that the expanded partnership may not be as bad as people fear.
The now for-profit venture National Geographic Partners will continue to operate independently of James Murdoch’s influence according to many long-time photographers and contributing writers. James Murdoch is Rupert’s son, who took over the leadership position at Fox in June. Brian Skerry, who has photographed marine wildlife and underwater environments for National Geographic magazine for nearly 18 years, told The Guardian that he and other contributors didn’t anticipate such a partnership. “I think everybody has some concerns and nobody is quite sure what it means,” he said. “I can only speak for myself, but I believe we were all thinking the same thing. National Geographic has been autonomous … pretty much forever. It came as a huge surprise.” But Skerry feels the organization’s leadership has been transparent about the deal. “The integrity of the staff and contributors is above reproach,” he said. “We aren’t the kind of people to do what we don’t want to do. If things went south, we wouldn’t work here anymore. If we were told to dumb down the science, I don’t think that’s going to fly.”
Others also insist that things will not change at National Geographic. John Stanmeyer, longtime contributor to the magazine, wrote on his Facebook page about an hour-long conference call with heads of the magazine. He wrote: “The call was to share layered insight into what the merger of NG and Fox means, not only for those of us who work for the magazine, what it also means for all of us who believe in the greater purpose of communication, science, exploration, photography and yes, the integrity/ethics of this venerable 127-year institution we believe in.”
Figureheads on the other side of the relationship are echoing these sentiments, which should provide some reassurance to those who still have concerns. When the expanded partnership was announced, James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, said, “We are privileged to have the opportunity to expand our partnership to continue to bring to audiences around the world, ‘The world and all that is in it,’ as National Geographic Society’s second president Alexander Graham Bell stated more than a century ago. We believe in the Society’s mission of bringing the world to audiences through science, education and exploration.” In a closed-door meeting he hosted on September 9 with Gary Knell, president of National Geographic Society, he said the company would “remain fully committed to maintaining the editorial autonomy and integrity of the Geographic.”
It would seem most of the people directly involved in the partnership are feeling optimistic about retaining the integrity National Geographic is known for, but certainly – as in many things – only time will tell.
Via The Guardian