I barely remember my great-grandfather at all, but I do remember his collection of National Geographic magazines. From pictures of braless women in Africa to penguins in Antarctica, National Geographic was a window to the rest of the world.
In more recent years, National Geographic has been an arbiter of environmental truth. Its pictures have been of melting ice caps, disappearing glaciers and of wildlife going extinct, but that may be over. Rupert Murdoch, whose media enterprises (including Fox News) bang the climate denial drum, has bought the non-profit magazine and media enterprise for a whopping $725 million and he plans to turn it into a profit-making venture.
Under the terms announced Wednesday, Fox will control 73 percent of the operation, called National Geographic Partners, with the balance held by the National Geographic Society. The partnership, based in Washington, will include a portfolio of National Geographic-branded cable TV channels, digital properties and publishing operations, most notably the magazine that has advanced the society’s founding mission — “the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge.”
Source: Washington Post
While the deal might have made the magazine’s publisher happy, its journalists are singing a different tune. Their one word reaction is “dread.”
Consultant Steve Beck doesn’t necessarily see the buy as a problem.
But Beck said it’s not certain that Fox’s involvement will be a negative. Murdoch’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal and its parent company in 2007 hasn’t hurt the Journal’s quality, he said. “He acquired them because they have great content. That’s what he’s doing here. National Geographic has a history of developing really good, high-quality content and nurturing a really loyal audience. He and his team see a valuable asset” that can be improved.
Murdoch’s spokespeople are saying there are no plans to change the content of the magazine, but Beck isn’t exactly right that his purchase of the Wall Street Journal didn’t change anything.
Back in 2007, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera was among those who actively endorsed the takeover, saying the media mogul’s deep pockets would protect the paper.
But now, in light of the scandal, Nocera has written a mea culpa.
“The Journal was turned into a propaganda vehicle for its owner’s conservative views. That’s half the definition of Fox-ification,” he wrote. “The other half is that Murdoch’s media outlets must shill for his business interests. With the News of the World scandal, the Journal has now shown itself willing to do that, too.”
The Wall Street Journal has also become an Obama attack vehicle, much like Fox Network.
The potential problems are two-fold. While their readership is limited, the magazine, through gorgeous photographs, documents the changes the world is experiencing with climate change. The National Geographic Society also gives grants to climate scientists. Will Murdoch change that? Well, here are his views on the crisis:
Even more frightening, his network’s denial propaganda is working, perhaps more than anything they do. In a poll, more Americans said Fox was more reliable with climate change information than President Obama. This, after calling climate change a “superstition,” “scam” and “hoax.” How long before the National Geographic starts defending the Fox view?