National Geographic, formerly The National Geographic Magazine, is the official magazine of the National Geographic Society. It has been published continuously since its first issue in 1888, nine months after the Society itself was founded. It primarily contains articles about geography, history, and world culture. The magazine is known for its thick square-bound glossy format with a yellow rectangular border and its extensive use of dramatic photographs.

The magazine is published monthly, and additional map supplements are also included with subscriptions. It is available in a traditional printed edition and through an interactive online edition. On occasion, special editions of the magazine are issued.

As of 2015, the magazine is circulated worldwide in nearly 40 local-language editions and had a global circulation of 6.8 million per month. Its U.S. circulation is around 3.5 million per month.


National Geographic (magazine)

The current Editor-in-Chief of the National Geographic Magazine is Susan Goldberg.

Chris Johns is chief content officer. He oversees the print and digital expression of National Geographic’s editorial content across its media platforms. He is responsible for National Geographic magazine, News, Books, Traveler magazine, Maps and all digital content with the exception of National Geographic Kids. He reports to Knell.

Terry B. Adamson, Executive Vice President of the Society and the Society's chief legal officer, has overall responsibility for the Society's international publications, including the magazine. He also reports to Knell.


National Geographic (magazine)

The first issue of National Geographic Magazine was published in October 1888, nine months after the Society was founded. Starting with its January 1905 publication of several full-page pictures of Tibet in 1900â€"1901, the magazine changed from being a text-oriented publication closer to a scientific journal to featuring extensive pictorial content, and became well known for this style. Among its more recent issues, the June 1985 cover portrait of 13-year-old Afghan girl Sharbat Gula became one of the magazine's most recognizable images.

In the late 1990s, the magazine began publishing The Complete National Geographic, a digital compilation of all the past issues of the magazine. It was then sued over copyright of the magazine as a collective work in Greenberg v. National Geographic and other cases, and temporarily withdrew the availability of the compilation. The magazine eventually prevailed in the dispute, and in July 2009 it resumed publishing a compilation containing all issues through December 2008. The compilation was later updated to make more recent issues available, and the archive and digital edition of the magazine are available online to the magazine's subscribers.

The magazine celebrated its 125th anniversary in October 2013.

Editors-in-chief of the National Geographic Magazine

Editor (1888-1920)

  • John Hyde (October 1888-14 September 1900; Editor-in-Chief: 14 September 1900-February 1903)
  • Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor (1875-1966) (Editor-in-Chief: February 1903-20 January 1920; Managing Editor: 14 September 1900-February 1903; Assistant Editor: May 1899-14 September 1900)

Editor and president of the National Geographic Society (1920-1967)

  • Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor (21 January 1920 â€" 5 May 1954)
  • John Oliver LaGorce (1880-1959) (5 May 1954 â€" 8 January 1957)
  • Melville Bell Grosvenor (1901-1982) (8 January 1957 â€" 1 August 1967)

Editor-in-chief (1967-present)

  • Frederick Vosburgh (1905-2005) (1 August 1967-October 1970)
  • Gilbert Melville Grosvenor (1931- ) (October 1970-July 1980)
  • Wilbur E. Garrett (July 1980-April 1990)
  • William Graves (April 1990-December 1994)
  • William L. Allen (January 1995-January 2005)
  • Chris Johns (1951-) (January 2005â€"April 2014)
  • Susan Goldberg (April 2014â€"present)


During the Cold War, the magazine committed itself to presenting a balanced view of the physical and human geography of nations beyond the Iron Curtain. The magazine printed articles on Berlin, de-occupied Austria, the Soviet Union, and Communist China that deliberately downplayed politics to focus on culture. In its coverage of the Space Race, National Geographic focused on the scientific achievement while largely avoiding reference to the race's connection to nuclear arms buildup. There were also many articles in the 1930s, 40s and 50s about the individual states and their resources, along with supplement maps of each state. Many of these articles were written by longtime staff such as Frederick Simpich. There were also articles about biology and science topics.

In later years articles became outspoken on issues such as environmental issues, deforestation, chemical pollution, global warming, and endangered species. Series of articles were included focusing on the history and varied uses of specific products such as a single metal, gem, food crop, or agricultural product, or an archaeological discovery. Occasionally an entire month's issue would be devoted to a single country, past civilization, a natural resource whose future is endangered, or other theme. In recent decades, the National Geographic Society has unveiled other magazines with different focuses. Whereas in the past, the magazine featured lengthy expositions, recent issues have shorter articles.


In addition to being well known for articles about scenery, history, and the most distant corners of the world, the magazine has been recognized for its book-like quality and its standard of photography. This standard makes it the home to some of the highest-quality photojournalism in the world. The magazine began to feature color photography in the early 20th century, when this technology was still rare. During the 1930s, Luis Marden (1913â€"2003), a writer and photographer for National Geographic, convinced the magazine to allow its photographers to use small 35 mm cameras loaded with Kodachrome film over bulkier cameras with tripods and glass plates. In 1959, the magazine started publishing small photographs on its covers, later becoming larger photographs. National Geographic photography has quickly shifted to digital photography for both its magazine on paper and its website. In subsequent years, the magazine cover, while keeping its yellow border, shed its oak leaf trim and bare table of contents, for a large photograph taken from one of the month's articles inside. Issues of National Geographic are often kept by subscribers for years and re-sold at thrift stores as collectible back-issues. In 2006, National Geographic began an international photography competition with over eighteen countries participating.

In conservative Muslim countries like Iran and Malaysia, photographs featuring topless or scantily clad members of primitive tribal societies are often blacked out; buyers and subscribers often complain that this practice decreases the artistic value of the photographs for which National Geographic is world-renowned.


Map supplements

Supplementing the articles, the magazine sometimes provides maps of the regions visited.

National Geographic Maps (originally the Cartographic Division) became a division of the National Geographic Society in 1915. The first supplement map, which appeared in the May 1918 issue of the magazine, titled The Western Theatre of War, served as a reference for overseas military personnel and soldiers' families alike. On some occasions, the Society's map archives have been used by the United States government in instances where its own cartographic resources were limited. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's White House map room was filled with National Geographic maps. A National Geographic map of Europe is featured in the displays of the Winston Churchill museum in London showing Churchill's markings at the Yalta Conference where the Allied leaders divided post-war Europe.

In 2001, National Geographic released an eight-CD-ROM set containing all its maps from 1888 to December 2000. Printed versions are also available from the National Geographic website.

Language editions

In 1995, National Geographic began publishing in Japanese, its first local language edition. The magazine is currently published in many language editions around the world, including English on a worldwide basis, Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, traditional and simplified character Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Hebrew and an Orthodox Hebrew edition, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, two Portuguese language editions, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovene, two Spanish language editions, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.

Recently launched local-language editions: Lithuanian (October 2009), Arabic (October 2010, published in 15 countries across the Middle East and North Africa), Estonian (October 2011), Georgian, Latvian and Mongolian (October 2012), Persian (November 2012), Ukrainian (March 2013, discontinued in Januray 2015), and Azerbaijani (September 2014).

In April 2005, an Indonesian edition launched, published by Gramedia Majalah. A Bulgarian edition of the magazine published by a Sanoma Publishing joint venture launched in November, 2005 and a Slovenian edition published by Rokus launched in May, 2006. In association with Trends Publications in Beijing and IDG Asia, National Geographic has been authorized for "copyright cooperation" in China to publish the yellow border magazine, which launched with the July 2007 issue of the magazine with an event in Beijing on July 10, 2007 and another event on December 6, 2007 in Beijing also celebrating the 29th anniversary of normalization of U.S.â€"China relations featuring former President Jimmy Carter. A Serbian edition of National Geographic was launched with the November 2006 issue in partnership with a joint venture of Sanoma and Gruner + Jahr.

In contrast to the United States, where membership in the National Geographic Society was until recently the only way to receive the magazine, the worldwide editions are sold on newsstands in addition to regular subscriptions. In several countries, such as Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine National Geographic paved the way for a subscription model in addition to traditional newsstand sales.


On May 1, 2008, National Geographic won three National Magazine Awardsâ€"an award solely for its written contentâ€"in the reporting category for an article by Peter Hessler on the Chinese economy; an award in the photojournalism category for work by John Stanmeyer on malaria in the Third World; and a prestigious award for general excellence.

Between 1980 and 2011 the magazine has won a total of 24 National Magazine Awards.

In May 2006, 2007, and 2011 National Geographic magazine won the American Society of Magazine Editors' General Excellence Award in the over two million circulation category. In 2010, National Geographic Magazine received the top ASME awards for photojournalism and essay. In 2011, National Geographic Magazine received the top-award from ASMEâ€"the Magazine of the Year Award.

See also

  • Asian Geographic
  • Australian Geographic
  • Canadian Geographic and Géographica in Canada
  • Chinese National Geography (founded in 1949)
  • GEO, Germany
  • Vokrug sveta (Russian: Around the World)
  • John Patric, Noted writer for National Geographic during the 1930's and 1940's


Further reading

  • Roger M. Poole, Explorers House: National Geographic and the World it Made, 2004; reprint, Penguin Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-14-303593-0
  • Stephanie L. Hawkins, American Iconographic: "National Geographic," Global Culture, and the Visual Imagination, University of Virginia Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8139-2966-8, 264 pages. A scholarly study of the magazine's rise as a cultural institution that uses the letters of its founders and its readers; argues that National Geographic encouraged readers to question Western values and identify with others.
  • Moseley, W.G. 2005. “Reflecting on National Geographic Magazine and Academic Geography: The September 2005 Special Issue on Africa” African Geographical Review. 24: 93â€"100.

External links

  • Official website
  • All the Magazine's covers published since 1888 until the year 2000

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