Monday, May 17, 2010

Written by National Geographic or ACWA?

Earlier today, I was given a copy of Water for Tomorrow magazine.

Since I talked to National Geographic reporters a few times last fall/winter and was quoted in their recent article on California water, I was interested and excited to see them producing "a custom publication" on water and very surprised to learn it was being distributed free. I was impressed with National Geographic, especially because they had independent fact checkers contact me twice and make me confirm the information I had provided them on water, unemployment, and jobs. That's expensive, so the free distribution and the call outs on the cover struck me as odd. Here is a close up of the bottom part of the cover...

I started reading, the articles read like they were written by DWR and ACWA, not National Geographic. National Geographic magazine had used me as a source about water and unemployment, so I found this excerpt in "Water for Tomorrow" interesting ...

Fallowed farmlands also translate into unemployment. According to Richard Howitt, agricultural economist at the University of California at Davis, the Central Valley’s local economy has already lost tens of thousands of farm and support jobs.
This is presented much differently than in National Geographic. I won't get into the details here, there are plenty of other posts on this blog about that.
After reading the Paul Rodriguez interview on the inside back cover, I flipped to the back cover and saw the ACWA logo. Aaha! mystery solved. I flipped back to the Table of Contents and saw in fine print ...
Water for Tomorrow is published exclusively for ACWA by: Onward Publishing, Inc. in partnership with National Geographic.
The magazine was copyrighted to ACWA with all rights reserved. None of the articles listed authors. Wendy Murphy, editor-in-chief, is a VP at Onward Publishing whose website says Onward "has a proven expertise in creating and strengthening world class brand images".

I am curious about the National Geographic Society's role in the "partnership." It doesn't appear to involve actual journalists, the use of their fact checking department, or even much in the way of photos. I could find no reference to Onward Publishing or Water for Tomorrow in National Geographics extensive websites. It has lots of beautiful photography like National Geographic, but most of the photo credits were to DWR.

Water for Tomorrow is a quick read, and I invite people knowledgeable about these issues to click the link above and read it for yourself. Here is another tidbit that I found interesting from the interview with PBS host Huell Howser in the inaugural issue...
Q: How did you go about making the PBS series “California’s Water”?
A. We started with a roadmap from ACWA and then followed the story wherever it
took us.
I am very interested in readers' opinion about this style of publishing, especially if you are a journalist, part of a non-profit education foundation (like the National Geographic Society), or ACWA. Please leave a comment (you can be anonymous).
Update, 5:00 PM, May 19: Many, many views but no comments. It seems that I'm too old-fashioned. I need to get with the times and create some "partnerships."

1 comment:

  1. Obviously I don't check your blog often enough. This story about ACWA teaming with National Geographic to do "branding" is outrageous--the print equivalent of Lesley Stahl's report on "60 Minutes."