FL: Do you see the magazine's mission as educational?
CJ: We know that the people who read National Geographic magazine aspire to knowledge. The media landscape has changed a lot, that's pretty obvious. That means that we're going to have to really go out and work with the most talented people worldwide we can find. We reach nearly 40 million people a month with this magazine, in 33 languages including English. It's incumbent upon us not just to educate, I would say, but we've got to be an exciting publication. We've got to be something that you just can't wait to pull out of your mailbox every month. That when you walk by it on the newsstand that you just can't help but buy it.
FL: "Educational" has sort of a dry connotation to it, doesn't it?
CJ: I believe when National Geographic magazine is firing on all cylinders we are inspirational. We make you want to go out and see the world. We make you want to learn more. You pick this thing up and it captures your imagination about places in the world and what the world is and what it can be, and what you can do in the world.
We're a nonprofit organization. I answer, obviously, to my boss and his boss and his boss and to our board of trustees, but I don't have to answer to stockholders. I don't have to come up with big quarterly returns or anything. I'm very fortunate because my bosses and our board of trustees want us to make a positive difference in the world, to inspire people to think and do the right thing for all of us and for future generations.
So you ask me if the magazine should be educational, I say, "Yeah, but it's got to be a lot more than that." Again, my experience as a field photographer is the world is an exciting place. Let's get that on our pages. Let's get that on our website.
Look at the December issue . You really want to know about the Uighurs, the people the Chinese clamped down on in July of this year? Well, the magazine to pick up is the December issue. You want to be taken to a place you probably never want to go? I mean, you want to go, but it was just hell getting there? South Georgia Islands. You want [to know] what's going on with one of the last hunter-gatherers left in Africa? Meet the Hadza in Tanzania. There's a pretty interesting mix of stories in that December issue that I would hope you'd enjoy and find interesting and, in the best of all worlds, inspirational.
FL: You've got me excited.
CJ: Well, good. That's what I'm supposed to do. It's part of my job.