The memo went out, and November 3rd 2015 came to the National Geographic office. This was the day in which Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox took over National Geographic. The management of National Geographic sent out an email telling its staff, all of its staff, all to report to their headquarters, and wait by their phones. This pulled back every person who was in the field, every photographer, every reporter, even those on vacation had to show up on this fateful day.
As these phones rang, one by one National Geographic let go the award-winning staff, and the venerable institution was no more.
The name now belongs to Rupert Murdoch, and he has plans for it. The CEO of National Geographic Society, Greg Knell, tried to claim back in September that there “there won’t be an [editorial] turn in a direction that is different form the National Geographic heritage.” Murdoch’s move today only served to prove Knell’s words hollow, with hundreds of talented people now served their pink slips. And with the recognition that Murdoch’s other enterprises do not reflect the standards held by National Geographic, and with Murdoch’s history of changing the editorial direction of purchased properties, today’s move indicates that we can expect a similar shift for National Geographic.
National Geographic‘s weakness has been its cable channel. While it does feature many pieces on scientific endeavors, it also has featured shows such as Doomsday Preppers and Chasing UFO’s which lacked much of the respectability of the print magazine. They have since been removed from the schedule, but the damage to the channels reputation remains, and reflects poorly upon National Geographic itself.
The National Geographic Society has long stood for science, research, and investigation. Murdoch’s companies have long stood against all three. The two positions would be in conflict, save Murdoch’s company is firmly in control. The editorial changes will therefore be severe, and erode the 127 years of publication excellence. For the men and women who brought National Geographic to worldwide prominence, the termination of employment is a tragic end both for hard-working people, and for National Geographic itself.