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National Geographic Turns For-Profit


15 September 2015 at 11:36 am
Ellie Cooper
Fans of the 127-year-old National Geographic magazine are largely lamenting the loss of it’s Not for Profit status to climate sceptic Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, but it’s not a new development in the science publishing world.

Ellie Cooper | 15 September 2015 at 11:36 am


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National Geographic Turns For-Profit
15 September 2015 at 11:36 am

Fans of the 127-year-old National Geographic magazine are largely lamenting the loss of it’s Not for Profit status to climate sceptic Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, but it’s not a new development in the science publishing world.

Under the $725 million joint venture, called National Geographic Partners, Fox will own 73 per cent and the Not for Profit National Geographic Society will still own 27 per cent. The two bodies will share board representation and governance equally.

Associate Professor Joan Leach, President of Australian Science Communicators and Head of Science Journalism at the University of Queensland, told Pro Bono Australia News that the number of Not for Profit science magazines was “dwindling”.

“In cases where you have non-profit magazines run by Societies  –  and let me say that is dwindling, there’s very few of those left  –  I think that’s great, but I think the health of them is very much in question,” Leach said.

“I think it’s very, very difficult for a Society, and that’s usually the way it goes, to prop up a non-profit media outlet.

“The rest of them are for-profit – Cosmos, Scientific America, these are all profit driven vehicles.”

Australian Geographic operates similarly, owned by Bauer Media Group with Not for Profit arm the Australian Geographic Society supporting research and environmental protection.

The sale of National Geographic to Fox is an expansion on an 18 year relationship between the groups for National Geographic Channels. Executives have used the partnership to assuage concerns about conflicting environmental outlooks between owners.

Gary Knell, the chief executive of the National Geographic Society, will be the first chairman of the National Geographic Partners board, Declan Moore, who has been with the National Geographic Society for 20 years, will be chief executive of the venture, and the magazine’s editor, Susan Goldberg, will continue in her role.

Leach said her main concern was not over editorial conflict, but the “consolidation of resources in any one institution”.

“Typically, these news organisations have processes where they separate the editorial decision and content decision between more market-based decisions,” she said.

“One would hope that to ensure credibility, they have these processes in place. We won't know that until we look at the way National Geographic covers some of the things it has covered in the past in relation to climate change or energy poverty.”

“In some ways it’s good a media organisation has taken over National Geographic versus some sort of other private company that might not respect the media process.”


Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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