Thursday, September 10, 2015

National Geographic: I Blame Reagan

By Bob Ferris

When I think about this whole National Geographic tragedy with Rupert Murdoch owning 73% of the operation I cannot help but think about Ronald Reagan and how with the help of Roy Cohn he worked with Murdoch to create the media mess we now have sans the Fairness Doctrine (1,2). We got punked and I blame Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan, Rupert Murdoch and Roy Cohn in Oval Office January 18, 1983
The situation at National Geographic is an unmitigated catastrophe and the negative reaction of the people is appropriate.  How many of us have been counting on this publication for clear and accurate interpretations for decades?  It reminds of losing Walter Cronkite and that whole school of reporters from a time when we would wrap ourselves in their voices knowing that what we were hearing was the truth or very close to that elusive measure.  They are all gone now in the era of FOX News and times of unfairness and imbalance.  And we have just handed the keys of truth to the master of deceit.

How exactly do you meld this renowned and beloved culture of near anal retentiveness to detail at National Geographic with the least credible news source on the air?  The answer to that is you just don’t because the exercise seems a lot like merging a five-star restaurant with McDonalds and having an expectation that the folks in the leather seats, sipping Cristal and looking for a dining experience will not notice the wilted iceberg lettuce, thousand island dressing mutation and less than prime beef.

I will miss reading this publication because it has been my companion for more than half a century since I read those early articles about the voyages of Irving Johnson and the Yankee.  I will also miss the magazine’s balanced and informed coverage of acid rain, peak oil, climate change, ocean acidification and a dozen others complicated issues as it really is the last of the broadly-read, popular formats for these topics.  My sense is that this is exactly why it was targeted by Murdoch.

When we look back on all that we have lost in terms of civil discourse, informed debate and political leadership much of the lose can be traced back to root causes in the early 1980s.  We should be sad but we should also wake up from our slumber and do something about it.

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