I was crouched down in the dirt, my camera poised for action. The brush was poking into my cheek, but that didn’t matter… only the shot did. I aimed at my subject, drew a breath, and started flooding the entire roll of film with exotic wildlife photos. I would’ve done a second roll, too, but my Mom wouldn’t let me. I was six or seven years old, trampling through her garden, capturing our dog, Corky, in his natural habitat: our backyard, playing with his toy and lazing under his favorite tree on a hot summer day.
That is my earliest memory involving National Geographic, an adventure sparked after seeing one of their legendary covers. And it makes me sad to recall that afternoon again, now that I know Rupert Murdoch and 21st Century Fox have effectively purchased all of National Geographic’s media holdings for $725 million. I wonder if future generations of kids will be inspired the way I was that day.
Will This Legendary Publication Ever Be The Same?
Founded in 1888, National Geographic has been a mainstay in the publishing world and one of the most influential magazines in print for 127 years, inspiring countless readers to take an interest in geography, nature, and science in general. And through all this time, the organization had remained a nonprofit outfit, its advertising revenues funding their various educationally-charged projects.
All of that changes now, however, with National Geographic’s acquisition by 21st Century Fox. Under the terms of the deal, Fox now holds a 73% controlling stake of National Geographic Partners, while the National Geographic Society retains the remaining 27%. The deal includes not only the iconic magazine, but National Geographic’s cable television channels, as well as their other digital and print publications.
Like all print media, National Geographic has suffered tremendously during the Internet era, with circulation dropping from its peak of 12 million subscribers in the 1980’s down to its present-day circulation of just 3 million subscribers, according to the Washington Post.
The news of the deal is especially tragic thanks to the group purchasing National Geographic: Rupert Murdoch and 21st Century Fox. Fox News and National Geographic are almost perfectly diametrically opposed, with National Geographic being a publication focused on science, education, and understanding the world around us, and Fox News having a sordid history of arguing against climate change, evolution, and other scientific facts.
Will we see National Geographic covers questioning whether climate change is real? Will they start treating “intelligent design” as a legitimate theory of scientific merit? Will the “Nat Geo” cable networks fill up with even more non-educational reality TV nonsense? Given Murdoch’s track record, I’d say it’s likely. Members of the National Geographic Society will likely see this deal as a good thing, but remember, folks: everything goes splendidly just after selling your soul to the Devil.