Black Lives Matter banner installed on the side of the building facing National Geographic Headquarters, Monday, June 22, 2020.
Photo by Mark Thiessen/National Geographic
For several years, National Geographic Partners (NGP) has used a building-sized billboard across the street from our headquarters in downtown Washington, DC, to visually publicize our work and declare our most important priorities as an organization. As of today, the billboard now features just three words: Black Lives Matter.
Statements like this are important but are no substitute for concrete action. As we grapple with the reality of systemic racism, we recognize that we have a responsibility to speak, to act, and to do our part to address injustice in the United States and around the world.
At National Geographic, we’ve long prided ourselves on providing a portal to the planet through exploration, education, and storytelling. We’ve aimed to go further and dig deeper than anyone else to tell the most important stories about the human and the natural world. But we realize we have not always lived up to that mission. Our lens on the world has sometimes been flawed and myopic, and we are taking steps to offer a more inclusive portal into the wider world.
Together with our nonprofit partner, The National Geographic Society, we are committed to elevating and supporting Black Explorers, educators, and storytellers and creating systemic change at National Geographic to foster a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future. NGP will focus on four key areas to drive this work forward.
Career: To begin, we must first look at our own house. We are launching a process to provide more and better opportunities for National Geographic employees of color at every stage of their careers — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because we can’t be the great organization we want to be without doing so. We will recruit, develop, promote, and retain a workforce that is diverse in every possible way. We will bring in more diverse talent through our internship program and increase our focus on mentoring as a way to ensure that employees who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPoC) have a chance to grow and rise into leadership roles. We will also be transparent in our efforts to become more diverse in order to hold ourselves accountable.
As a first step to begin building a pipeline of more diverse talent within our company and in the media industry more broadly, we will launch a year-long National Geographic Partners residency program for emerging journalists and content creators who are BIPoC. Open to qualified candidates in the early stages of their careers, the program will allow the selected candidates to work in our organization, contribute extensively to our content, and receive close mentoring from our accomplished staff. Our intention is to offer recipients full-time employment opportunities at National Geographic or assist them in their next career step in the media industry at the close of their residency.
Content: We are committed to increasing diversity across the content creation process. We’ve made important strides in how we portray BIPoC communities across the globe and have tackled racial issues directly through our magazine and channel programming. But we know our work is far from complete. In particular, we are committed to providing more opportunities to diverse writers, photographers, and filmmakers whose talents and perspective are critical to producing a truly exceptional body of work. Earlier this year, we partnered with the Society to launch the Field Ready program, which is aimed at increasing diversity behind the lens, with a focus on natural history filmmaking. Now, we are expanding the program to serve more BIPoC in fields including science, adventure, and exploration. We are also reevaluating what stories we tell across our platforms — and how we tell them — in order to connect better with more diverse audiences. Additionally, we are looking across all of our products, including our travel, publishing, and consumer products business, to ensure that BIPoC see themselves in our offerings.
Community: We are committed to maintaining an active presence in the global community that we serve. We will partner with schools and organizations to help educate and encourage young BIPoC who are interested in careers in journalism, photography, filmmaking, and other fields critical to the storytelling process. We also will increase our outreach and recruiting at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Starting in 2021, we will begin a new scholarship program to support the next generation of Black storytellers, awarding scholarships to promising students who aim to pursue careers in all aspects of content creation, including reporting, filmmaking, photography, cartography, and data visualization. Recipients will be offered a spot in our National Geographic Partners internship program and paired with a dedicated mentor to support them throughout college.
Culture: Beyond opportunities for advancement, we are committed to building a truly inclusive workplace culture, where every member of our family — particularly those who are BIPoC — have confidence that their voices are valued and respected. We are establishing a new Diversity and Inclusion Council, which will be comprised of members of each of our Business Employee Resources Groups along with senior executives who will help lead this work and have a voice in executive-level meetings and decisions. We will also require unconscious bias training for all employees.
Across all of these pillars, we are developing concrete steps forward that will be measured against metrics that hold us accountable. We know our work must be multifaceted and continue indefinitely. We also know that many of these actions should have been taken long ago.
We are excited about the potential of this work as well as the many steps that our partners at the Society are taking to promote a more diverse and inclusive National Geographic. We would also love to hear from our fans about the content and actions that you’d like to see from us, so if you have feedback or ideas, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2018, we explained our decision to devote a special issue of National Geographic magazine to race by stating that “we take seriously our responsibility to present an accurate and authentic picture of the world.” That remains true today. But to fulfill that responsibility, our organization must better reflect the diversity of the world. Moving forward, we are determined to ensure that it does.