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National Geographic (formerly the National Geographic Magazine and branded also as NAT GEO) is the official magazine of the . It has been published continuously since its first issue in 1888, nine months after the Society itself was founded. It primarily contains articles about science, 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. in the magazine has been held by since 2015.
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 was circulated worldwide in nearly 40 local-language editions and had a global circulation of approximately 6.5 million per month according to data published by (down from about 12 million in the late 1980s) or 6.7 million according to National Geographic. This includes a US circulation of 3.5 million.
The current of the National Geographic Magazine is . is also Editorial Director for National Geographic Partners, overseeing the print and digital expression of National Geographic’s editorial content across its media platforms. She is responsible for News, Books (with the exception of National Geographic Kids books), National Geographic Traveler magazine, National Geographic History magazine, Maps, and all digital content with the exception of National Geographic Kids. reports to Gary Knell, CEO of National Geographic Partners.
The first issue of National Geographic Magazine was published on September 22, 1888, nine months after the Society was founded. It was initially a scholarly journal sent to 165 charter members and nowadays it reaches the hands of 40 million people each month. Starting with its January 1905 publication of several full-page pictures of Tibet in 1900–1901, 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. The June 1985 cover portrait of the presumed to be 12-year-old Afghan girl , shot by photographer , became one of the magazine's most recognizable images.
, the children's version of the magazine, was launched in 1975 under the name National Geographic World. From the 1970s through about 2010 the magazine was printed in , by private printers until that plant was finally closed.
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 in 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.
On September 9, 2015, the announced a deal with that would move the magazine to a new partnership, National Geographic Partners, in which 21st Century Fox would hold a 73 percent controlling interest.
In December 2017, announced that it would , including the latter's interest in National Geographic Partners.
The magazine had a single "editor" from 1888–1920. From 1920–1967, the chief editorship was held by the president of the . Since 1967, the magazine has been overseen by its own "editor-in-chief".
During the , the magazine committed itself to presenting a balanced view of the physical and human geography of nations beyond the . The magazine printed articles on Berlin, , the , and Communist China that deliberately downplayed politics to focus on culture. In its coverage of the , 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 . There were also articles about biology and science topics.
In later years, articles became outspoken on issues such as , , , , and . 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 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. It was during the tenure of Society President and editor Gilbert H. Grosvenor (GHG) that the significance of illustration was first emphasized, in spite of criticism from some of the Board of Managers who considered the many illustrations an indicator of an “unscientific” conception of geography. By 1910, photographs had become the magazine’s trademark and Grosvenor was constantly on the search for "dynamical pictures" as Graham Bell called them, particularly those that provided a sense of motion in a still image. In 1915, GHG began building the group of staff photographers and providing them with advanced tools including the latest darkroom.
The magazine began to feature some pages of in the early 1930s, when this technology was still in its early development. During the mid-1930s, Luis Marden (1913–2003), a writer and photographer for National Geographic, convinced the magazine to allow its photographers to use the so-called "miniature" 35 mm Leica cameras loaded with film over bulkier cameras with heavy that required the use of . In 1959, the magazine started publishing small photographs on its covers, later becoming larger photographs. National Geographic photography quickly shifted to digital photography for both its printed magazine and its website. In subsequent years, the cover, while keeping its yellow border, shed its oak leaf trim and bare table of contents, to allow for a full page photograph taken for one of the month's articles. Issues of National Geographic are often kept by subscribers for years and re-sold at thrift stores as collectibles. The standard for photography has remained high over the subsequent decades and the magazine is still illustrated with some of the highest-quality in the world. In 2006, National Geographic began an international photography competition , called the with over eighteen countries participating.
The January 2017 issue of National Geographic has Avery Jackson, a nine-year-old , on the cover. She is thought to be the first openly transgender person on National Geographic’s cover.
In conservative Muslim countries like and , photographs featuring topless or scantily clad members of primitive tribal societies are often ; buyers and subscribers often complain that this practice decreases the artistic value of the photographs for which National Geographic is world-renowned.
, India (National Geographic Magazine November 1909)
Traditional making in , (National Geographic Magazine March 1914)
Spanish Gypsy (National Geographic Magazine March 1917)
Market (National Geographic Magazine October 1920)
Supplementing the articles, the magazine sometimes provides maps of the regions visited.
(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 resources were limited. 's map room was filled with National Geographic maps. A National Geographic map of Europe is featured in the displays of the in London showing Churchill's markings at the where the leaders divided Europe.
In 2001, National Geographic released an eight- set containing all its maps from 1888 to December 2000. Printed versions are also available from the National Geographic website.
In 1995, National Geographic began publishing in Japanese, its first local language edition. The magazine is currently published in 37 local editions around the world.
The following local-language editions have been discontinued:
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.–China relations featuring former President . The mainland China version is one of the two local-language editions that bump the National Geographic logo off its header in favor of a local-language logo; the other one is the version published under the name Gita Nama.
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 —an award solely for its written content—in the reporting category for an article by on the ; an award in the photojournalism category for work by on in the ; 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 ' 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 ASME—the Magazine of the Year Award.
In April 2014, National Geographic received the National Magazine Award ("Ellie") for best tablet edition for its multimedia presentation of Robert Draper's story "The Last Chase," about the final days of a tornado researcher who was killed in the line of duty.
In February 2017, National Geographic received the National Magazine Award ("Ellie") for best website.
On the magazine's February 1982 cover, the pyramids of Giza were altered, resulting in the first major scandal of the digital photography age and contributing to photography's "waning credibility".
The cover of the October 1988 issue featured a photo of a large ivory male portrait whose authenticity, particularly the alleged provenance, has been questioned.
In 1999, the magazine was embroiled in the scandal, in which it purported to have a fossil linking birds to dinosaurs. The fossil was a forgery.
In 2010, the magazine's Your Shot competition was awarded to William Lascelles for photography featuring a dog with fighter jets over its shoulder. The picture turned out to be a fraud.
In March 2018, the editor of National Geographic, said that historically the magazine's coverage of people around the world had been . Goldberg argued that the magazine ignored non-white Americans and showed different groups as exotic, thereby promoting racial clichés.