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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Recording those chronicles

We’ve been subscribers to National Geographic Magazine for 40 years now.  And while that’s a long time, it pales in comparison to many who have had generations of their family as subscribers.  The magazine generates loyalty and little wonder why.

It is the epitome of in-depth reporting and, of course, photographic excellence.   As a journalist, I was taught to understand and use the power of a good photograph to illustrate or highlight the words that I was sharing.  Early on in my writing career, I learned to “grab a camera” and see what developed (no pun intended).  And so I was not surprised to learn that NG’s recently retired editor-in-chief, president of the National Geographic Society, and chairman of the board Gilbert Grosvenor was first drawn to the magazine himself through photography.

He was studying pre-med at Yale University in the early 1950s when he went to the Netherlands on a summer program to rebuild dikes washed out by the great flood of 1953.  While there, he photographed and co-authored a story that was published in the magazine.

“Although I’m not sure I realized it at the time,” he said, “it changed my life.  I discovered the power of journalism.  And that’s what we are all about – recording those chronicles of planet Earth.”

It was both a Writer’s Moment and a Photographer’s Moment for a young man who returned to college, earned his degree, and then joined the National Geographic staff in 1954.  In 2004, after 50 years on the magazine, he was honored by President George W. Bush with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his “recording of those moments for us all.”  And that, of course, is what good writers – and photographers – do.

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