September 22, 2023


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National Geographic puts out the last of its remaining staff writers

Like an endangered species chronicled of its imminent extinction, National Geographic has been on a relentless downward trajectory, struggling for vitality in an increasingly unforgiving ecosystem.

On Wednesday, the Washington-based journal that has surveyed science and the natural world for 135 years hit another tricky lane when it laid off its last remaining writers.

The cut—the latest in a series under owner The Walt Disney Company—includes about 19 editorial staff, who were notified in April that such terminations were about to happen. From now on, article assignments will either be contracted out to freelance translators or put together by editors. The cuts also eliminated the magazine’s small audio section.

The layoffs were the second in the past nine months, and the fourth since a series of ownership changes that began in 2015. In September, Disney removed six senior editors in an unusual reorganization of the magazine’s editorial operations.

The departing employees said Wednesday that the magazine had cut back on photo contracts that enabled photographers to spend months producing the publication’s featured images.

In another cost-cutting move, the company said in an internal announcement last month that copies of the popular print with a bright yellow border would no longer be sold on newsstands in the United States starting next year.

National Geographic writer Craig Welsh made note of this moment in a tweet on Wednesday: “Just arrived at the new National Geographic, which has my latest article — my 16th, and last as a senior writer. … I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked with amazing journalists and told Important global stories.It was an honor.

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The magazine’s current trajectory was years in the making, set in motion primarily by the historical decline of print and the rise of digital news and information. In the light-speed world of digital media, National Geographic has remained a semi-verbatim product—a monthly magazine whose photos, graphics, and occasional articles were the result of months of research and reporting.

At its peak in the late 1980s, National Geographic reached 12 million subscribers in the United States, and millions more abroad. Many of its followers enjoyed illuminating other worlds—space, the ocean depths, small parts of the planet—so much that they piled old cases into cluttered piles of attics and basements.

It remains among the most widely read magazines in America, at a time when magazines were no longer widely read. At the end of 2022, it was just under 1.8 million subscribers, According to the Certified Alliance of Audited Media.

National Geographic was launched by the National Geographic Society, Washington, an organization formed by 33 academics, scientists, and would-be adventurers, including Alexander Graham Bell. The magazine was initially sold to the public as a benefit to join the community. It grew into a stand-alone publication slowly but surely, reaching one million subscribers by the 1930s.

The magazine was eventually surpassed in revenue and attention by community video operations, including the leading National Geographic cable channel and Nat Geo Wild, an animal-focused channel. While they produced documentaries equal to the quality of the magazine’s stern reporting, the channels — run by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox — aired pseudo-science entertainment programs about UFOs and reality series like Sharks vs. Tuna at odds with the original high society. Vision.

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The magazine’s prestige continued to wane through a series of corporate shake-ups that began in 2015 when the association agreed to form a for-profit partnership with 21st Century Fox, which held majority control for $725 million. The partnership under the Disney banner came about in 2019 as part of a massive $71 billion deal between Fox and Disney.

Among those who lost their jobs in the latest layoffs was Debra Adams Simmons, who only this past September was promoted to vice president of diversity, equality and inclusion at National Geographic Media, the entity that oversees the magazine and website.

At the time, David Miller, executive vice president of National Geographic Media, said the magazine was “realigning key departments to help deepen engagement with our readers while nurturing existing business models and developing new revenue lines.”

In an email to The Post on Wednesday, National Geographic spokesperson Chris Albert said the staffing changes will not affect the company’s plans to continue publishing a monthly magazine “but rather give us more flexibility to tell different stories and meet our audiences wherever they are across many platforms.”