Susan Goldberg of National Geographic Magazine: national parks are a piece of the American soul

by Rahim Kanani | rahimkanani | Rahim Kanani Media Group, Inc
Wednesday, 8 June 2016 18:16 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Whether you are visiting the National Mall in Washington or the waterfalls at Yosemite, parks take us outside the confines of our routine existence, raise our vision beyond daily distraction and put us in touch with our history and the natural world,” explained Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief of National Geographic Magazine. In an interview about the Partners in Preservation Campaign, we discussed the origins of the effort, the significance of U.S. national parks to American society, media coverage of historical locations and landmarks, and much more.

Tell me a little bit about why National Geographic joined forces with American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to launch the Partners in Preservation Campaign?

Our decision to join forces with Partners in Preservation and its #VoteYourPark campaign is rooted in a shared commitment to the celebration and conservation of the world’s most meaningful and culturally significant sites. For all of 2016, as part of our coverage of the centennial of the National Parks Service, we have been creating content about parks. This paired up well with efforts by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help the parks, and we got involved to activate our passionate audience who cares so much about these issues. National Geographic has a long history of supporting and reporting on our National Parks: the National Geographic Society helped draft legislation to establish the National Park Service in 1916.

How would you describe the cultural, educational and environmental significance of U.S. national parks to American society?

National parks are a piece of the American soul. Whether you are visiting the National Mall in Washington or the waterfalls at Yosemite, parks take us outside the confines of our routine existence, raise our vision beyond daily distraction and put us in touch with our history and the natural world. The U.S. national parks also serve as repositories of geological and biological diversity, drawing people from around the world to celebrate and protect these special places. 

When we think about National Geographic, we think about the wonders of nature, history, wildlife, travel and exploration. Where does historic preservation fit into the context of your coverage, and why is it so important to spotlight this aspect of our world?

National Geographic has always played a unique and important role in bringing the story of America’s national parks to a diverse worldwide audience, drawing attention to their beauty, their challenges, and their importance as places where we can study and protect our natural, cultural and historical heritage. National Geographic has consistently featured the National Park System and specific national parks across all of our publications, television channels, and website. These features provide information and inspiration to individuals worldwide and educate Americans about the importance of protecting our nation’s heritage. Reporting on historical sites around the world is something we have done from the very beginning, as a way to inspire our readers to care about these places and their preservation; historic preservation goes hand in hand with scientific exploration and conservation and is part of our DNA.

How would you rate the media coverage of historic sites and landmarks across the news and magazine spectrum as it relates to travel, culture, education or otherwise?

Despite the blizzard of information that we all are bombarded with every day, coverage of historic sites tends to happen only when there has been some kind of disaster. For example, Palmyra in Syria has received significant attention only after ISIS started destroying it. At National Geographic, we regularly feature news related to historic sites and landmarks in an effort to inform and inspire people to care about the planet, crisis or not, and I wish more news and information outlets would pay attention to these important issues on a regular basis. 

What are some other historic sites, nationally or internationally, that are in desperate need of preservation and protection?

This is like picking among your children! There are too many sites that come to mind. So many schools, bridges, tunnels, homes and places where pivotal moments in our history took place need attention. One example is Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor until his death in 1968. The church reopened in 2011 after renovations were made to restore it to how it looked in the 1960s. Now the outside of the building needs to be preserved. But there are so many places that are important to so many communities that it's really impossible to single any one out.

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